By Maureen Nolan
It’s an American tale of gaining a foothold and then moving up.
The Somali-Bantu Community Association of Onondaga County now has its own center, where it can offer more programs and better services to the refugee families who turn to it for help. So many of them have been doing that the association outgrew the space it shared with the Boys & Girls Club at the Central Village housing complex.
In a few years, the number of people it serves has grown from 20 to 60 clients a year to more than 200, Executive Director Abdullahi Ibrahim said.
When a Syracuse Housing Authority building opened up this winter, the nonprofit association and authority struck a deal on rent.
In February the center moved into 302 Burt St. and what has to be five times as much space as it had before, Ibrahim said.
The nonprofit association, with support from other organizations, uses the center as a platform to provide a wide range of free services to refugees, among them English and citizenship classes, help with paperwork, rides to appointments, and classes in basic skills they need to land a job.
“We are trying to bridge the gaps,” Ibrahim said.
Before the move, center staff and volunteers had access to one office, now they have several, plus two big open rooms for classes and a kitchen.
“Getting this office space has meant a lot to us. It really changed the way we are helping people,” said Haji Adan, literacy program coordinator and office manger.
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