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Monthly potluck connects Tucson refugees, community members

Posted at 10:57 PM, May 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-05 17:36:41-04

After escaping violence and conflict, refugees in Tucson are finding friendship and support from a local group.

Every month the Facebook group Arizona Welcomes Refugees organizes a potluck dinner for refugees and community members.

Organizers say it's an opportunity to share food and good company while connecting refugees to local resources and families. The potluck includes traditional Syrian pastries and food for dozens of people.

Neda Alkhiat is from Syria and has been in Tucson for three years. Alkhiat started attending the potluck dinners about six months ago. 

"It's the first Thursday of every month. We come here, everybody brings his own dish," Alkhiat said. "We have fun."

The welcoming group was started on Facebook by Senator Steve Farley back in 2015 and has more than 2,500 members. The group greets arriving refugees at the airport and helps arrange bake sales. The Syrian Sweets Exchange has drawn hundreds of customers and has turned into business opportunities for many of the refugees.

On Thursday University of Arizona Keyla Valenzuela went to her first potluck at Grace St. Paul's Episcopal Church. She was introduced to the group by a teacher who told her about the Syrian Sweets bake sale. 

"They've had a rough past, so it's always nice for somebody to give them a hand," Valenzuela said. "Especially when you're coming into a new country. I'm from Mexico, so when I came here it was very hard."

At the potluck refugees are also connected to other resources and get clothing and other donations.

According to the Arizona Department of Economic Security more than 700 refugees resettled in the state in 2016.