With the federal government’s recent limits on refugee settlement, the number of new refugees welcomed by Omaha’s Refugee Empowerment Center this fall slowed to a trickle.
The agency didn’t settle any refugees in October. It welcomed one in November, and has only two scheduled this month. That presents financial challenges for a social services agency whose primary source of funding is the federal dollars attached to each refugee it serves.
“It’s rough,” said Amanda Kohler, the agency’s director.
But the challenge also prompted the agency to do something to help maintain its operations: It’s selling candles handmade by refugees it has served.
Sold under the brand name “Refuge,” the label of each candle is signed by the refugee who poured it.
Kohler said the response “has been incredible,” with many customers buying the candles as holiday gifts. In 40 days, the agency has rung up $15,000 in sales.
The candles come in five scents and are available at the website buyrefugecandles.com. — Henry J. Cordes