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Abilene family raises money to support local refugees

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ABILENE, Texas - A local family cooked up some authentic Middle Eastern food Saturday at the Aldersgate United Methodist Church to raise money for the Abilene branch of the International Rescue Committee.

The Palmer family's connection to refugees started decades ago when the family lived and worked in the Middle East as missionaries.

Timothy Palmer, one of the family's two sons, said the time he spent overseas has given him a positive and accepting outlook on refugees and the recent rhetoric against Syrian refuges was upsetting to him and his family.

"Whenever the Paris shootings happen and after San Bernardino we heard a lot of people that kind of lumped all Arabic people into this one category of terrorist," Palmer said. "That had not been our experience and it's definitely not reality."

As a sign of support for refugees locally and across the world the family connected with the IRC an organization that assists refugees during their time of resettlement and decided to host a luncheon with their favorite Palestinian cuisine.

During the luncheon attendants were able to eat and socialize with a family from Iraq that the IRC helped resettle.

"IRC is good for all refugees, doesn't matter where you're from, from Middle East or from Africa ? IRC really helped us and we really appreciate this help." Iraq Ali Al-Sammak said, he and his family have been in America for two years.

Susanna Lubanga, IRC Resettlement Director said the interaction between refugees and local residents is a major focus for the organization.

"Refugees leave everything behind and all the material things can be replaced. We can give them an apartment and we can give them sheets and we can give them towels but what they really left behind is community and friendship," Lubanga said.

"It was absolutely amazing seeing a refugee family come to this event and connect with Americans and build friendships, that's really what it is all about the connections from person to person."

Palmer said the family's goal is to help refugees fell a little more at home in their new land and help American's become more open-minded about resettlement.

"If you live in Abilene and you're not from Abilene we want to welcome you as our brothers and sisters, that's why we're doing this," Palmer said.

The family raised more than $500. Lubanga said the money will be used to host women and children's activities in the spring.

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