It’s been a challenging year in so many ways at MVRCR, but this holiday season we wish to share a special story, and focus on gratitude for our extraordinary community.
Ken and Jean (Kyong Suk) Puchalski of Rome have recently contributed $10,000 to the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees in Utica. This gift is the result of having heard a presentation on our area's cultural diversity by Mrs. Shana Pughe Dean, MVRCR senior staff, at St. Joseph's Church in Lee Center last spring. At that time, The Puchalskis matched the donations collected from those attending, which totaled $1,000.
Fueling The Puchalskis' generosity is a profound religious faith that recognizes God's providence in their lives, tireless volunteer work and prolific generosity (e.g., single-handedly operating a large food bank garden), gratitude for their respective Polish and Korean heritage, and an acute appreciation for the challenges faced by refugees and immigrants, regardless of the circumstances of their relocation.
The story of Ken and Jean is an immigrant story, and therefore an American story. Ken is the second generation of Polish immigrants and Jean emigrated from Korea 50 years ago. Ken was born in Elizabeth, NJ and served in the US Air Force. Jean married her husband when she was 18 years old. They have 2 daughters and 1 son. Upon arriving in America Jean began worrying about her widowed mother and 6 brothers in Korea, so she got a job waitressing to raise money so she could afford to help her family. Jean and Ken not only raised their own children but brought her mother and brothers to the US, helping her brothers afford college and make their way. One brother now works for the UN, another is a successful businessman in Korea.
Over the years Jean and Ken have cared for elderly extended family, been active in their church and community, and lived the American dream with an emphasis on hard work, faith and community. When they heard the story of MVRCR and the refugees and immigrants we serve, Jean especially was reminded of how lonely and challenging her first years in America had been, with little English and sharp cultural challenges.
And so, earlier this year Jean and Ken visited MVRCR and presented Executive Director Shelly Callahan and Board President Jennifer Boulanger and other Board members with a check for $10,000 to support our mission of welcome. We are enormously grateful for this generous gift but also for the extraordinary love story. Their story, kindness and generosity is exactly the balm we need after a year of dehumanizing and divisive rhetoric, inhospitable US policies, and reduced allocation of government funds. Our community is so much richer because Jean and Ken have made the Mohawk Valley their home.