IRCO: A one-stop shop for immigrants and refugees in Portland
Each year NAI Elliott does outreach in our community. In addition to an annual raffle, our staff also works with IRCO (Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization) to assist families during the holidays. Our Chief of Staff Ash Mitchell helps coordinate this effort and says, “This special partnership brings levity and cheer to those most in need. Each year we ask them to pick two families that are most in need since the IRCO is best positioned to know their families and tell us what’s best.”
During our three years working with IRCO there have been some memorable highlights. Ash has even helped the organization deliver our gifts to the families. “This isn’t a massive organization with faceless names, each year we have the privilege of connecting directly with each family’s case worker to best serve the families.”
IRCO was founded nearly 45 years ago by Southeast Asian immigrants and refugees to create a one-stop shop for people like themselves. Trying to navigate government and social services was incredibly difficult and required folks to go from place to place to get what they needed. While workforce placement is at the core of IRCO’s work, they realize how interconnected everything is for someone in need and provide a single point of connection for that person.
Nami Bigos is the fundraising coordinator at IRCO and oversees corporate and individual donations, events and supply donation. While the past two years have been difficult for everyone, Nami is particularly proud of how IRCO quickly pivoted and were still able to provide to those in need during a challenging time. To Nami, this typified the work IRCO does on a daily basis, navigating the constantly changing federal government rules and regulations when it comes to refugees and immigrants. “A good chunk of what we developed during COVID, we found were better practices and we will be continuing on even after the pandemic.” New client onboarding was one of these improvements. As opposed to new clients coming directly into their offices, they developed the Connect Phone Line. Nami shares, “It’s available in seven different languages, provides an initial assessment and pairs someone with a case manager right away.” By listening to what the community needs and responding to it, IRCO has continued to help those in need.
This year, NAI Elliott is helping Middle Eastern/Afghani families. Like many immigrants and refugees, they came to the US to continue their education and seeking a bright future for their kids. Sara Ashou, CAPI Program Coordinator at IRCO, says “We support families through helping them to identify their family goals each 6 months. Their hopes are with hard work and good effort, they can find affordable housing, jobs, enhance their language skills and support the education of their children.”
There are several ways to get involved with the wonderful work that IRCO is doing. They accept donations through their website, you can order from their Amazon wish list, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get an ongoing list of most-needed items to purchase and donate. Ash Mitchell says, “I hope that more companies will connect with IRCO and increase the positive impacts to families.”
In addition, you can learn more about things that may be outside of your immediate scope but are affecting your neighbors. IRCO highlights the issues that are effecting immigrant communities, shares mentorship opportunities and letter writing campaigns through their social media and newsletter.