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Nonprofit offers aid to immigrant, refugee communities through COVID-19

Charlotte-based nonprofit ourBRIDGE helps immigrant and refugee families struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One of the communities hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic in the Charlotte area are immigrants and refugees, many of whom don't speak English and they are too out of work now and desperate to feed their families. 

Salma Villarreal helps run ourBRIDGE. She says these scary times are rough for everyone, but especially Charlotteans who are new to the country.

The group is a nonprofit that typically works with these kids, serving them in an after-school program, but since the pandemic hit, they've switched gears in a big way.  

“A lot of our families are losing their jobs and undocumented families aren’t eligible for a stimulus checks and for lot of the benefits that the government gives.”

They quickly realized that many of the families they work with were going hungry and the meals the schools had prepared for delivery weren’t enough.

"We would go to the school, pick it up, (and) take it to the neighborhood," Villareal says. "It was gone within minutes."

So they got creative, getting help from places like the Charlotte Community Kitchen, and restaurants like La Shish Kabob and Why Not Pizza who make the meals for ourBRIDGE staffers to deliver. 

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They went from dropping off just 30 lunches a day to 7,500 breakfasts, lunches and dinners a week. And they're busy making sure all the ourBRIDGE families have what they need for the kids to do online schooling. 

"Even today, not all of our families have access to technology," Villareal said. 

She says the ourBRIDGE families are resilient. 

"I think we are all willing to do whatever it takes to get our families through uncertain times and I see so much strength and resilience in our families," Villareal said. "I'm so proud of how strong they're being during this time."

The team at ourBRIDGE says this work is only possible because they've partnered with so many people in the community, another example of people in Charlotte coming together to do good.