Community aid raises funds for Afghan family

Community members came together on March 1 to help a family find accommodation in classic Mardi Gras fashion: with pancakes and syrup.

The 13-member family of Afghan evacuees, fleeing the Taliban takeover, came to Black Mountain with the help of Catholic Charities, a Charlotte-based organization.

The family’s identities have been kept anonymous for security reasons. Even in Black Mountain, the family could be targeted, according to Liz Chandler, communications director for Catholic Charities.

“We’ve actually heard of instances where the brother of such and such makes headlines, so they go after his family in Afghanistan,” Chandler said in January. “We’re just trying to protect as best we can.”

Continued:Afghan evacuees resettle in Black Mountain, more families still to come

Held at the Black Mountain Presbyterian Church, a partnership of local community organizations came together for a breakfast-for-dinner fundraiser to raise money to house the Afghan family.

According to church staff, the dinner and subsequent event at White Horse Black Mountain raised more than $5,000.

The Black Mountain Rotary Club cooked for the Pancake Benefit Dinner at the Presbyterian Church on March 1.

“We need to fundraise for housing,” said David Carter Florence of Black Mountain Presbyterian. “Housing is so expensive and even hard to get rentals that will be consistent and sustainable.”

Carter Florence, associate pastor at Black Mountain Presbyterian, said the dinner-style benefit was launched during the pandemic as a way to connect. Although Presbyterians do not usually participate in Shrove Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday, according to Carter Florence, he said the tradition of giving extends throughout the community.

Black Mountain Presbyterian has partnered with St. James Episcopal and Catholic Charities to support the local Afghan family since arriving. The family, made up of immediate and extended family members, is working on relocation to Black Mountain.

“We have to serve and hang on while they adapt,” Carter Florence said. “Most of them have had war all their lives.”

Community members got into the Mardi Gras spirit on Mardi Gras March 1 at the Black Mountain Presbyterian Church Pancake Benefit Dinner.

According to Carter Florence, housing has been provided for the family by Christmount Christian Assembly since their arrival in December.

Working with Catholic Charities, Rob Morris, executive director of Christmount, said the organization is meeting the family’s basic housing needs.

“It’s been great for us,” Morris said. “We’re just happy to participate.”

Although Chistmount has no immediate plans for more permanent accommodation, Morris said he heard Catholic Charities aim to locate the family in March.

Although Black Mountain Presbyterian staff do not know where the family will ultimately live, the need for funds to find housing remains significant. Carter Florence said while the immediate need focuses on the Afghan family, he sees the benefits as a starting point for continued community efforts.

“We know housing is just a big deal,” Carter Florence said. “We see this as a developing service ministry to work toward more sustainable housing for all.”

The fundraiser was organized in partnership between the Presbyterian Church, St. James Episcopal, the Black Mountain Rotary Club and White Horse.

The March 1 benefit dinner offered sit-down and take-out options with prepared boxes of pancakes and bacon.

With drive-through and seated options, dinner attendees were encouraged to also attend a benefit concert at White Horse immediately afterwards.

“It’s a community. We all live in it,” said Bob Hinkle, owner and operator of White Horse. “We all owe each other something in the broadest sense of the word.”

Hinkle said he thought of ways to help support the family of the evacuees when he was approached by the Presbyterian Church.

“We have established a good relationship with White Horse Black Mountain,” Carter Florence said. “(Hinkle) has been great, wanting to engage the community to connect through music.”

Community support extends beyond housing, according to church staff. Helping with schooling for children, finding jobs for adults, providing rides to the Islamic Center of Asheville, and providing English lessons for the whole family have been the focus of church staff.

“We’re not trying to convert them to Christianity or anything,” Carter Florence said. “It’s important to respect who they are.”

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Contact him at 828-230-3324 or emaille@blackmountainnews.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribe.

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