St. Peter’s has a rich history of refugee ministry. It was begun more than 15 years ago by. Deacon Tom Tripp, as a deanery-wide collaboration of Episcopal churches in the Eastern Deanery. Our collaboration was aimed at helping both the Vive LaCasa refugee shelter, and Journey’s End Refugee Services (JERS)-both located in the city of Buffalo.

Working with Journey’s End, we have helped resettle several refugee families coming into the Buffalo region by participating in a project entitled “Home Again”. We have done several Home Again move-ins by ourselves, and more in collaboration with other Episcopal churches as well as churches from other denominations. We were able to collect furniture, food, and household items for their apartments; welcome the families at the airport; provide welcoming meals; and in some cases, mentor the family for 3 months and beyond in a program called the Friendship Partnership.

To date, St, Peter’s has helped in re-settling aided families from Burma (3), the Congo(2), Eritrea (1), Afghanistan (1), and Ukraine (2).

In the Fall of 2016, the Episcopal Diocese of WNY awarded us a grant for $20,000 to maintain this ministry in an ecumenical manner and expand it if possible. We continued this Friendship Partnership with Journey’s End until the refugee slowed considerably in 2017.

 We also developed a video of our work, entitled “From Strangers to Neighbors”, serving as a primer for developing future refugee projects. Each parish in WNY and Northwestern Pennsylvania received a copy.

In 2019, Deacon Joanne and I decided to switch gears and serve a refugee family already here in WNY. We began the L.E.A.F. program, which stood for Learning/Education/Activities/and Fun. With help from JERS and the Buffalo Schools. We identified a particular African family(the Moises) with five school-age children and built a mentoring program around them. They were transported to our church and back a week, read stories to improve their English, were given one-on-one mentoring sessions around their schoolwork; and offered a different “fun” activity each week.

We maintained contact with their schools to measure progress and seek improvement in our activities. We also provide school supplies, food, clothing, and other items on a yearly basis.

Sadly, we had to cancel the L.E.A.F. program in March of 2020, with the many Covid-19 restrictions in place. However, still maintain contact with the family and continue supporting them with annual school supplies, and food drives.

When Afghan refugees started streaming into the WNY area in 2021, we donated monies from our refugee account to support Buffalo United for Afghan Evacuees, a consortium of local refugee agencies. We also have begun a project called “Welcome Boxes”, in which we collected donations of items by room designation, and delivered them to Journey’s End for one of those apartments. We completed our first delivery in late January of 2022.

Our most recent refugee effort was formed in Fall of 2022 with the help of Jewish Family Services, and St. James Episcopal of Batavia, and directed towards a Ukrainian refugee family of 5, the Balanovychs. A “Family Sponsor Circle” was formed to help. We were made aware of their needs through Deacon Diana’s two daughters; one who worked with a sister of the family’s father; and the other who taught at the school of one daughter. .

They were helped with a month’s rent, and with funds and materials for the mother to begin a pierogi enterprise on her own. Our Linen Pantry also supplied many linens and household items. The Sponsor Circle also provided the family with transportation as needed and Conversational English mentoring sessions.

A year later, we assisted the Melenchuk family, also from Ukraine, in much the same way as the Balanovych’s. We have provided school supplies and Christmas presents for our three ongoing families for several years now.

Deacon Joanne, now retired, continues to assist our refugee Ministries with her Refugee Bazaar in our church’s undercroft. Parishioners continue to donate to the Refugee account as well. Deacon Diana is our liaison to St. James Batavia and the Genesee deanery of our Diocese.

Why do this? Jesus told his followers to “Welcome the Stranger.”We do it well and often.  

Deacon Joanne Coury Frake (retired)
The Venerable Diana Leiker
Deacon Thomas Tripp