Coun. Doug Holmes

SUMMERLAND — Summerland council has put out the welcome mat for Syrian refugees.

In a resolution approved Monday, council stated that it wishes to provide a leadership role to assist in the refugee crisis and to welcome refugees to the community.

More specifically council resolved that the district will provide administrative and technical support, where able, to the Summerland Refugee Sponsorship Group and that Coun. Doug Holmes will serve as the council liaison to the group.

The sponsorship group is an outgrowth of a meeting on the refugee crisis organized by Holmes earlier this month.

Of the  over 80 people who attended the meeting, 25 have agreed to serve on the steering committee and another 25 to help in various ways.

The group is looking to the municipality to be a partner and provide leadership  Holmes told council.

Currently, a Syrian family, the first in the Okanagan, is being sponsored by the Summerland United Church and the Holy Child parish is working with Catholic parishes in Penticton to sponsor a family.

The refugee sponsorship group provides an opportunity for people of any faith or no faith to assist refugees Holmes explained.

At present the group is looking to the municipality to provide meeting space free-of-charge and possibly administrative help such as photocopying.

"Members of the group have diverse skill sets, so there isn't a need for staff help," Holmes said. 

The sponsorship group is not requesting a financial contribution from the municipality.

Still in the initial phase of organization, the group will be refining its  course of action in the near future.

Holmes explained that the Summerland group will work with other groups assisting refugees in various ways, but does not see itself as an umbrella organization.

Coun. Janet Peake said that while she wholeheartedly supports the refugee initiative she is also interested in looking after people who are already here.

"I'm often asked that question and my response is that we can do both," Holmes said.

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