Over the past five years, the International Institute of Akron (IIA) has resettled over 2,000 refugees in Akron, most from Bhutan, Burma, Iraq and Afghanistan. From helping new arrivals learn English in the early 20th century to resettling the latest influx of refugees, IIA has spent 100 years making the process of adjusting to a new culture and home a little easier.
Elaine Woloshyn has been the Executive Director of IIA for three years. A native of Youngstown and a child of an immigrant family, Woloshyn has over 30 years of executive-level experience in government and nonprofit organizations.
Woloshyn understands the importance and value of engaging with IIA’s neighbors to create a vital, exciting North Hill that embodies IIA’s motto, “Many cultures, one community.”
What role does IIA play in North Hill?
EW: IIA has spent nearly half its 100-year history in its current location on Tallmadge Avenue in North Hill. From this vantage point, IIA works with the community’s residents, businesses and organizations to foster economic development and neighborhood improvement. By assisting the foreign-born to integrate into American society, IIA celebrates this multi-cultural neighborhood and is committed to making North Hill Northeast Ohio’s most inclusive community. Our employees speak over 15 different languages, and our contract staff offer interpreting and translation services in 30 languages. We also sponsor tours of the North Hill International District.
What value do immigrants bring to North Hill?
EW: Immigrants start businesses and companies at a significantly higher rate than their presence in the population. Additionally, IIA works with dozens of employers who are delighted to hire refugees and immigrants. In fact, recent research estimates that over 1,000 manufacturing jobs stayed in Greater Akron between 2000 and 2010 because of a ready pool of immigrant workers.
How is IIA commemorating its 100-year anniversary?
EW: We are celebrating with a series of events in the spring of 2016, the most important of which is the Welcoming Akron Initiative in collaboration with the City of Akron and Summit County. This one-day event will bring together our partners, ASIA, Inc. and Global Ties Akron, along with government and private sector leaders, employers, educators, nonprofits, entrepreneurs and community residents to talk about how we can work together to create a better community. Other special events will be listed on our website, www.iiakron.org.
How can readers help support local immigrants and IIA?
EW: As part of our anniversary celebration, we are asking residents of Greater Akron who have immigrant family members or ancestors, no matter how recent, to consider a monetary donation to honor that journey to a new life in the United States. We hope that remembering our own families’ stories will inspire us to welcome and assist newcomers.