Welcoming Fort Wayne working to build stronger community

Melissa Rinehart, lead organizer of Welcoming Fort Wayne (Courtesy photo)
The Rev. Roger Reece, executive pastor of Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County.

The ministry educates the non-immigrant community about the importance of immigrant newcomers settling here, said Melissa Rinehart, the nonprofit’s lead organizer. Welcoming Fort Wayne also works to create the infrastructure to help new immigrants acclimate to life here and become contributors to the community.

Related: Welcoming Fort Wayne Working to Build a Stronger Community

The ministry, which was founded about two years ago, is part of the Welcoming America movement, which promotes similar work in cities around the country, Rinehart said.

Immigrants are important to the future of Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana, she said.

“The only reason we’ve had population growth in northeast Indiana is because of immigration,” said Rinehart, a cultural anthropologist.

Newcomers to America also help fill the many open jobs in area industries, she said.

“If they were not here, our area economy would not be as good.”

She and the Rev. Roger Reece, executive pastor of Associated Churches, said they will gain a better understanding of newcomers’ contributions to the local economy and community through a Gateway for Growth grant.

The grant was obtained recently through Welcoming America and the group New American Economy. The latter organization is a leader in analyzing data about newcomers and their economic impact, Rinehart said.

Staff at New American Economy will analyze the economic impact of immigrants in Allen and seven surrounding counties and report the results next year, she said.


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