By: Bonnie Kallenberg
About the Author
Bonnie Kallenberg is an Atlanta native and graduated from Georgia State University with a degree in Marketing. She is married with two grown children and three grandchildren. Bonnie has owned Finders Keepers for 26 years (a marathon!) and serves on the Board of the National Association of Resale Professionals. An avid runner, she also practices yoga, pilates and attends Pound classes to stay sane.
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I recently ran the Refuge Coffee Race to raise funds for various projects in the refugee community. Fifteen years ago I knew very little about refugees other than the fact that Clarkston had a large population of people from all over the globe.
My business Finders Keepers is in Avondale Estates, very close to Clarkston, but it wasn’t until a case worker came in one day and introduced himself that I learned resettlement agencies were less than a mile away – and I was intrigued. I got involved, raised money and served on an agency board.
Then I hired my first employee who was resettled here from Liberia, Kanu Bartuah, one of the original Fugees soccer teammates. After him came several more as suitable positions opened up. Liberia, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti and Somalia are all currently represented at my small business.
I have found my refugee employees to be very dependable, honest and hard-working. They show up and are truly grateful for the job. We have learned much from each other as we work side by side day after day. We have all grown to care very much about each other and they have shared stories and struggles. American-born employees become involved in these lives and offer assistance and advice. Managers who were once unaware of the struggles of others both in the US and abroad now go beyond their own comfort zones to help our foreign-born employees figure out how things are done in the USA.
Company social gatherings are boisterous affairs and everyone has a great time. Last year at our summer outing at Lake Sinclair, our Muslim female employees donned life jackets over their traditional dresses and headed out on jet skis, enjoyed the pontoon boat ride, jumped off the dock and played in the water along with everyone else. We certainly got some curious looks from boaters who passed by our colorful group!
My first refugee employee, Kanu, went on to become a pilot and is now working toward his commercial license. Finders Keepers employees, managers, customers and consignors donated money for years to keep him in school. He stayed the course with our support and graduated from Middle Georgia State University – School of Aviation and continues to be a part of our big Finders Keepers family. A baby shower is planned for another employee who is expecting in the summer. Her manager has helped her navigate prenatal doctor visits, maternity care and classes. We even have inter-company romance and I couldn’t be happier for this couple.
Having a diverse staff has been a blessing to my business and I hope my business has been a blessing to them. I truly believe employment helps refugees acclimate to their new surroundings if they are alongside caring co-workers on a regular basis. I know it must be frightening to show up to a new job in a new country surrounded by people who don’t know what you’ve been through. The stories that do come out eventually are heartbreaking and brutal and put our daily trivial problems in proper perspective. It makes us want to do more, to be a voice, to be an advocate and many of us have done just that. We are better for it.
There are a lot of people who care about the refugee community and I’m pleased that there was a great turn out for the race. After the race I bought a shirt at the festival. It says: Love>Fear. That says it all.
April 2017:Talking with Babies Makes Their Brains Smarter by Nitza Vega-Lahr, Ph.D.
March 2017: It’s All About Student Support by Terry Segovis
February 2017: Clarkston, Georgia: An Ever-Changing Town by Awet Eyasu
January 2017: Reclaiming Georgia’s Legacy of Love by Paedia Mixon
December 2016: Reflections on Welcoming Communities Trip to Germany by Alicia Phillip
November 2016: Thanksgiving in America by Bishop Robert Wright
October 2016: Voting: The Real American Dream by Elizabeth Poythress
August/September 2016: From the Road: das Willkommen by Paedia Mixon
July 2016: My Life In AmeriCorps by Lauren Mertens
June 2016: Reflecting On World Refugee Day
May 2016: A Gift for my Parents by Bee Nguyen
April 2016: The Ripple Effect by Breauna Hagen
March 2016: Lessons I’ve Learned Tutoring a Refugee by Ashley Hager
February 2016: For the Love of Humanity by Safia Jama
January 2016: 4D Service Learning at The Galloway School by Scotti Belfi
November and December 2015: A Case for Syrian Resettlement by Paedia Mixon
October 2015: Creating a Welcoming Atlanta Interview with Luisa Cardona
September 2015: Third-Annual Red, White and NEW Event Exceeds Fundraising and Advocacy Goals by Kelley Lugo
August 2015: Patti Garrett – August 2015 Food for Thought by Patti Garrett
July 2015: Engaging International Families in Parent Groups by Patti Ghezzi
June 2015: Reflecting on the Fourth of July by Kevin Abel
May 2015: Looking Back on Iraq by Whitney Kweskin
April 2015: All Hail Hall by Spencer Hall
March 2015: Honoring our Volunteers by Adriana Varela
February 2015: Celebrating New Americans by Charles Barnwell and Bob Glick
January 2015: What Refugees Leave Behind by Wendy Cheeks
December 2014: Welcoming Week in Atlanta by Emily Pelton
ARTICLES | LINKS:
Refugee entrepreneurs are expanding prosperity for all Atlantans by opening new businesses that add to the tax base, employ local residents, and bring fresh ideas and products to our community.
ARTICLES | LINKS:
“Doing Business Like a Refugee” – For countries that embrace refugee business, what follows is often a boon to the economy, and an outlet for the refugees themselves. Via NPR Planet Money
“Where are refugees to the US coming from?” : via Washington Post
“U.S. Religious Leaders Embrace Cause of Migrant Children” – This summer, religious leaders across the United States lead the cause of welcoming unaccompanied migrant children to their communities. via New York Times Link
“The Children of the Drug Wars: A Refugee Crisis, Not an Immigration Crisis” – The ongoing issues facing Central American countries, forcing thousands of unaccompanied children are complicated. Here is one view of the crisis. via New York Times Link
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