Sammamish Mayor Christie Malchow and Issaquah Mayor Mary Lou Pauly joined three other Eastside mayors in signing a proclamation in support of national Welcoming Week, Sept. 14-23.
Welcoming Week is an annual celebration that brings newcomers and longtime residents together in honor of the social, cultural and economic benefits that immigrants bring to communities.
“In a time when immigrants and refugees are getting so many messages that they’re not welcome, this is our chance to speak up and say, ‘In this community, we welcome you, and you belong here,’” says Debbie Lacy, director of the Eastside Refugee and Immigrant Coalition (ERIC).
East King County is home to larger foreign-born populations than many other parts of King County. Foreign-born residents make up 22 percent of the Issaquah population and 25 percent of Sammamish’s population. Many immigrants speak English fluently and retain their native language, choosing to raise their children with two or more languages. About a third of Eastside families speak a language other than English at home.
ERIC is one of two dozen community partners hosting Welcoming Week across Eastside.
Welcoming Week kicks off with the Sammamish YMCA Community Health and Safety Fair, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. on Sept. 15. Community members can post a note about where they’re from on the YMCA’s Culture Wall. The celebration continues with “Welcoming Week: Discover Tea” at the Issaquah Senior Center, 1:30 p.m.-3 p.m. on Sept. 17. Additional events are hosted by local organizations.
Lacy says she hopes the community will show up at the cross-cultural events to promote a sense of belonging.
“Communities with a lot of diversity can become divided, which doesn’t benefit anyone” she said. “Meeting people face to face breaks down barriers and helps us all feel better connected to the places where we live and work.”
For a list of all Eastside events, visit www.ericmembers.org/events.