The Eastside cities of Kirkland, Bellevue, Issaquah and Redmond are once again participating in the nationwide Welcoming Week celebration.
This year, the week runs from Sept. 13-22 and works to support diverse communities and build relationships among neighbors through various events.
Welcoming Week was started in 2009 by the nonprofit organization Welcoming America. Welcoming Week is a national program that encourages local cities and organizations to sponsor community events to bring people together and reduce social barriers.
Welcoming Week on the Eastside kicks off at 10 a.m. on Sept. 13 in Redmond. Overall, there are more than 30 events planned throughout the Eastside. Events are hosted by an array of local partners and have been coordinated by the Eastside Refugee and Immigration Coalition (ERIC).
“Too often, people feel disconnected from each other and feel like they themselves don’t belong or have a good sense of belonging. [People] feel like they don’t know their neighbors anymore. People can feel a great sense of disconnect from the community,” said Debbie Lacy, ERIC founder and executive director. “These events are an invitation to say something, come and meet your neighbors, get reconnected and reacquainted with people and learn something new about all the people that make the Eastside so great.”
In Kirkland, the Juanita Neighborhood Association is hosting a Welcome to Juanita event from noon to 3 p.m. on Sept. 14 at Edith Moulton Park. The event will celebrate diversity and inclusion in Kirkland and feature free food from local restaurants, free games and prizes, entertainment and community and business information and resources.
In a city press release, Mayor Penny Sweet said Kirkland is committed to being a safe, welcoming and inclusive community.
“We are proud to join with other Eastside cities to celebrate Welcoming Week, and we’d like to encourage all Kirkland community members to take any action this week and let others know that they belong here,” she said in the release.
There will be nine events in Bellevue during Welcoming Week. Starting Sept. 13, the city will be hosting a seminar from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Bellevue Botanical Garden on the importance of diversity and inclusion in gardening. Other events throughout the week will include music and dance performances, cultural conversations, mask-making, visual art, music and talks on the theme “taking root”at the 10-day Bellwether Art+ festival.
As part of its Diversity Advantage Initiative, Bellevue also provides cross-cultural outreach and engagement opportunities.
The city of Issaquah will host its Issaquah Welcomes You! event from 5:30-8 p.m. on Sept. 20 at the Issaquah Community Center. The event will celebrate Issaquah’s cultural diversity with music, world dances, informational booths and food trucks.
Redmond will host 13 events during Welcoming Week that encourage connectivity and dialogue.
“It is important that everyone feels comfortable and engaged in the community,” Mayor John Marchione said. “We should be like a blended family…We all bring something to the party and we celebrate and enjoy what everyone brings to the party.”
Activities will include community game nights, a potluck dinner, connection groups, wellness workshops and story time with the police.
For the first time, a training and community discussion called A Welcoming Eastside Economy is set for noon to 2 p.m. on Sept. 20 at Redmond City Hall.
The training will review the array of programs and strategies that other communities have pioneered to help include immigrants in local community and economic development efforts. The training will be led by Daniel Valdez, network director with Welcoming America.
According to Lacy, Valdez will train and talk about how to integrate immigrants and refugees, and their experiences, into economic development planning and growth.
“It’s not just about community building and social services,” Lacy said, “It’s about economic development and infrastructure that helps make sure our policies and practices are also welcoming, inclusive and making sure that everyone can live in a community safely and thrive.”
To see a full list of events and more information about Welcoming Week, see www.EastsideWelcomes.org.