By Debra J. White –
“I’ll be the greatest president for jobs that God ever created,” said Donald J. Trump at a campaign speech in Chicago on the campaign trail last year. For some workers, that turns out to be an empty promise. Employees in resettlement agencies are being laid off because of Trump’s efforts to curtail immigration to the USA.
Resettlement agencies like the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Catholic Charities and Refugee Focus have offices in the Phoenix area and are jittery about their future. Phoenix is a top ten destination for refugees from around the world. According to the Pew Research Center, around 4,000 refugees settled in Arizona in 2016.
Management at the locally owned and independent bookstore Changing Hands stepped in to help refugees. On February 20, Presidents’ Day, profits from all sales from both stores (Tempe and Phoenix) as well as on-line purchases were donated to the IRC. The agency’s Glendale office teaches English as a second language and offers job and housing assistance.
Co-owner Gail Shanks and a group of store employees saw this as a way to make a difference in the refugee community. They sent out an email appeal announcing the event to the store’s thousands of loyal followers. They also posted signs around both stores to promote the special sale.
Customers were just as enthusiastic. Regular customer Gaye from Mesa said she bought books just to support the event. Tempe resident Jeremy said, “I’m happy to do this. It’s an easy way to help.” Cashiers at the check-out line said no customers complained about donating to refugees while many offered words of support and encouragement.
News spread far and wide about the special event. Kenny Still, a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins, tweeted his support. Despite near unanimous support for refugees, not everyone was so thrilled. A check of the store’s Facebook page revealed a few disgruntled contributors. Teia said to help veterans, the elderly and children first. Kimberly supported the travel ban on Muslims. Most contributions to the Facebook page, however, were positive and encouraging.
Brandon Stout, the store’s director of marketing, said, “Business increased to more than double what it was the same day the previous year.” Changing Hands will present a check to the local office of the IRC at the end of the week.
Changing Hands first opened in Tempe on April 1, 1974. The store now has a second location in Phoenix. For more information about Changing Hands, visit www.changinghands.com