Refugee Children Receive Gifts from Santa
By Lynne Conner, Observer Correspondent
December 19, 2019
ROCKFORD—Large, multi-colored balloons and children’s laughter filled the air at the St. Bernadette Parish social hall on Dec. 14 during the fourth annual Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program’s Christmas party. 
Children of refugees in the program received stocking stuffer gifts, lunch, candy as well as Christmas gifts from Santa. Adult refugees will be receiving their gifts closer to Christmas.
Janet Biljeskovic, director of the resettlement program, said that refugees and their families attending the event hail from four countries — the Republic of Congo, Burma, Burundi and Syria. 
Gifts for the children were donated by St. Bernadette parishioners while gifts for the adult refugees were donated as part of Holy Family Parish’s Giving Tree program. 
“For many of our refugees, this is the first time they have ever seen a Santa Claus outside of the movies,” Biljeskovic said. “This event is also very welcoming and integrating for our refugees to be part of the community and meet the volunteers from St. Bernadette’s who have helped to make this event possible.
The Christmas party also serves as an orientation to the American culture.”