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International House focuses on assimilation

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Beverly Grant

Beverly Grant

Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The number of immigrants International House has served in the last two years has grown 25 percent.

And with less restrictive immigration laws likely, the demand for services is expected to keep growing, says Beverly Grant, the group’s new executive director.

To cope with that growth, International House is expanding its programs and stepping up its efforts to secure foundation grants and expand its base of donors and members.

Growing out of an ecumenical ministry founded in 1981 by the Charlotte Area Clergy Association to address the needs of Charlotte’s international community, International House serves 10,000 people a year and operates with an annual budget of $700,000, a staff of eight people and a corps of over 300 volunteers.

The group’s goal is to “enhance communication and understanding by bringing people of all nationalities together,” says Grant, who joined International House a year ago as director of development, was named interim executive director last fall after Bill Garcia left to pursue other opportunities, and was named executive director in March.

International House provides cultural-exchange programs for international business leaders and high-school students from abroad; international diversity programs that bring people together at multi-cultural events; educational programs such as English tutoring and classes; and immigration services.

Those services, which Grant says aim to help immigrants “navigate through the path to legal citizenship,” include a legal clinic that specializes in immigration law and serves about 2,000 clients a year.

And with a $50,000 grant from the American Dream Fund at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, International House has expanded the clinic’s staff, which includes a full-time lawyer and two full-time paralegals.

Grant says expanding the organization’s fundraising has been a big priority.

In addition to the Knight grant, International House also received $25,000 from the GlaxoSmithKline Foundation to develop, in partnership with Crossroads Charlotte, a new pilot program, known as “Live, Learn and Grow,” that will provide basic life skills for low-income immigrants.

To be launched this summer and offered in two sessions, each likely to include one class a week for three to four weeks and serve 40 to 50 people, the program will address a broad range of life skills such as financial literacy; knowledge about and access to government, health-care and education; navigating the city; and English tutoring and classes.

Those two grants helped increase the organization’s annual budget this year by $100,000, with other increases generated by individual fundraising.

International House, which has roughly 300 donors, late last year launched a new membership program that already has enlisted 100 individual and corporate members, Grant says.

The organization also has purchased a donor-management system that will be central to efforts to broaden its base of support, she says.

And she is interviewing candidates to serve as director of development.

Also key to fundraising are special events, including an annual gala, which will be held Oct. 3 at the Hilton Charlotte Center City and aims to raise $80,000, up from $75,000 the event netted last year.

International House also is developing a new program, known as Navigate Charlotte, that aims to help immigrants who are new to the city find their way around.

“There is a need for the international community and the Charlotte community to connect, understand and communicate,” Grant says, “so that Charlotte becomes a more vibrant, richly-colored fabric.”

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