The Refugee Women’s Sewing Society … and the place they call home.

About ten miles east of Atlanta is a little town of about 8000 people called Clarkston, Georgia. The town motto is “Small Town, Big Heart” and when you consider what’s going on there, it really fits.

A Vietnamese crocheter

In the 1990s, refugee resettlement groups deemed Clarkston to be an ideal area because it was near Atlanta, at the end of the transit line, and had lots of rental units available. Hundreds of refugees from Somalia, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Vietnam, Bhutan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Russia, Afghanistan and Iraq flooded in. By 2000, almost half the population of the town was from outside the U.S.  and Clarkston had become the most diverse square mile in the U.S.

The Clarkston Community Center, formerly the town high school

In response, the Small Town with a Big Heart built a $2.4 million, 10,000-square foot Community Center with room enough for everyone: Contra dancers, senior refugees, Girl Scouts, the Burundi drum team, table tennis players, break dancers, literacy students, country music pickers, 40 community gardeners, 100 summer campers, and or course, the Refugee Women’s Sewing Society.

A Bhutanese sewing beauty

Led by the perennially perky Catherine Palmer, a Southern Baptist missionary, the Sewing Society serves over 40 women of numerous nationalities with 23 sewing machines, 6 classes and enthusiasm galore. The women gather for fellowship, laughter and work – crocheting, beading, hand sewing in a microfinance model that creates products the women can sell.

A shy Somalian

If there were a rainbow of hope for how diversity can work in a community, it would be arching over the Clarkston Community Center. My $100 today goes to the CCC, and the lovely ladies of the Sewing Society.