It all started when…
In December 2006, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted a raid at the JB Swift Beef Company in Hyrum, UT. Many undocumented workers were deported, leaving numerous open positions at the plant. In 2007 the first of many refugees from Burma were being resettled in Salt Lake City. SLC-based resettlement agencies soon connected newly-arrived Karen, Burmese Muslim, Karenni, and Chin people to employment opportunities at JBS. Over the course of the year dozens of refugee families moved to Logan, where the English Language Center of Cache Valley stepped forward to meet the newcomers. Alex Mortensen, a Cache Valley native who spoke Thai, was a part-time case worker hired by the ELC to connect newly-arriving families to local services, English classes, and donations of household goods. Many families were assisted by members of the Cache Valley Bible Fellowship and Valley Baptist Church in Smithfield.
Funding from the Refugee Services Office of the Utah Department of Workforce Services (DWS) created a position for Nelda Ault to be an employment counselor at the Logan DWS office in 2011. She continued the work of connecting families to resources, and worked alongside community volunteers in the work of orienting and integrating refugee families from Eritrea and Ethiopia, in addition to the families from Burma. As part of her DWS duties, she convened a refugee community council comprised of volunteers and service providers and learned of community needs through in-home conversation groups and other home visits.
In the summer of 2013, the DWS funding for Nelda's position was reallocated, and some members of the community council started considering the possibility of creating a new nonprofit organization. With the support of Michael Pekarske, an AmeriCorps VISTA member assigned to Logan through the Refugee Services Office AmeriCorps grant, some community council members took the first steps to becoming a 501(c)(3) entity. Around the same time, DWS commissioned Utah State University to conduct a refugee needs assessment throughout the state. A team of researchers at USU outlined the needs expressed by refugee community members as a series of "literacies" that service providers and members of the wider community could use to understand the needs of their new neighbors and clients.
On June 20, 2014, the newly named Cache Refugee & Immigrant Connection (CRIC) incorporated with the State of Utah. Nathan Hult and Bryan Dixon, community members with law and nonprofit development expertise, assisted with drafting articles of incorporation and by-laws. On January 27, 2015, CRIC received nonprofit status from the IRS. Nelda Ault was chosen to be the first board president.
"Walk-in hours," during which refugee individuals and families bring mail, applications, and other issues to volunteers for assistance, have been staged four times a week since 2014. Riverwalk Apartments, the Logan Library, and Neighborhood Nonprofit Housing Corporation (now Neighborhood Housing Solutions) donated space at various times during the week for CRIC to set up shop two hours at a time. Other community partners, such as the Cache Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, St. John's Episcopal Church, First Presbyterian Church, Logan City Schools, the English Language Center of Cache Valley, and Stevens Henegar College also lent space during this time for meetings, classes, and trainings.
AmeriCorps VISTA members have always been the main source of energy in CRIC's development. VISTA member Luz Maria Carreno served two year-long terms, forging deep connections between CRIC and the refugee youth, as well as with Logan City School District. She was instrumental in reaching out to graduating seniors, helping them become the first people in their families to attend college. Julie Taquin helped professionalize CRIC's procedures in preparation for our first office space in 2017 and created regular cultural information sessions for the general public. At the conclusion of Julie's term, she became CRIC's first paid employee and launched the Neighbor Program. Melissa Brimhall, the current VISTA member, has formalized CRIC's volunteer program that now extends past weekly walk-in hours to a drivers license study group, a citizenship study group, a community garden, and monthly orientations.
CRIC's growth in response to the needs of Karen, Burmese Muslim, Karenni, Chin, Sudanese, Somali, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Iraqi, Syrian, Kuwaiti, Afghan, Congolese, Angolan, Iranian, Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran community members has been made possible by local volunteers and local donors. While a handful of grants over the years have paid for programs and garden tools, the rest of our funding comes from local individual donors.