First Parish Bedford UU

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LIFT was closed in June 2013

LIFT - the Lowell Iraqi Families Team - is a group of First Parishioners and friends in other communities who have been helping to support a growing number of Iraqi refugees in Lowell and nearby towns.


Greetings, fellow-Parishioners!
The Lowell Iraqi Families Team (LIFT) ceased operating as of June 2013, at least in its original form.
The Iraqi community, which grew from 19 families to more than 60 (in June 2013) since First Parish became involved with them in October 2009, is to some extent more self-supporting, the community more mature and able to provide mutual support to incoming families.
While there remain needs that could appropriately be filled by members of a volunteer group such as LIFT, Charlie and Chris were each ready to 'move on' to other pursuits. Charlie was seeking full-time employment which will preclude his spending time on LIFT work. Chris also added time to her work schedule which left less time for her involvement with the newer LIFT families. We both think that so many of the families have adapted well that they are now able to help one another.
The LIFT fund we established to receive donations from First Parish's Social Responsibility Council, parishioners and friends for the benefit of the Iraqi families in Lowell has been instrumental in providing numerous programs for them (e.g. bus passes, bed bug mitigation, winter boots, bicycle locks & helmets, diapers, shopping carts, fans, ESL help and school supplies etc.) The fund had sufficient dollars remaining to provide for these programs through June 2013.
First Parish could continue its leadership role helping to support the Iraqi community beyond June, if someone were willing to step forward to take over the management of LIFT. Charlie and Chris would be happy to talk with anyone about what this would involve, so please contact either of us, if interested. We hope that other churches in the area may also become active with the Iraqi community.
We want to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt thanks to all those who have helped make the LIFT program so effective. You have provided generous donations of your friendship and hospitality, your time, your skills, your strength, your energies, your furniture, your clothing, your help with transportation and, yes, your money. Lasting bonds have been made with many of the Iraqi families and we have all been deeply moved and rewarded by getting to know them.
So, please let us know if you'd be interested in taking over LIFT and keeping this important part of FP's outreach work going. And - regardless of whether or not there is a LIFT group, the Iraqi families in Lowell will still be there and remain a growing and vibrant part of our larger community - they will continue to welcome and benefit from old and new friendships with our parishioners.
Thank you!
Charlie Frean and Chris Rabinowitz


February 2013: The needs of Iraqi families will continue to be listed from time to time on the LIFT web site.



You can now donate directly to the LIFT fund by clicking on the PayPal Donate button on the LIFT web site.

Thank you for your 501(c)(3) tax-deductible donation, which goes directly to
the Lowell Iraqi Families Team fund maintained by First Parish in Bedford.


Updated LIFT Donations Policy - September 2011

During the past couple of years LIFT has been able to pass on many items of furniture, clothing, household goods and more to the 30+ Iraqi families in Lowell. However, it has become increasingly diffcult to find volunteers to help with the logistics of pick-up and delivery of these items.

At this time we are only able to accept donations of furniture, clothing or household goods, if the donor is willing and able to deliver the donated items directly to a recipient family. At fairly regular intervals, we publish on the LIFT web site a document which lists items needed by the Iraqi families. If you have anything to donate on this list and are willing to deliver it, please contact us through this Contact Us link on the LIFT web site.

We are always happy to receive $ donations, which we use to fund our programs (e.g. Bus Passes for Iraqi Lowell High School students, Bicycle locks and parts, Winter Footwear, Bed Bug remediation, Basic Toolkits for incoming families and more). Below are examples of what your $ donation can do:

Tax-deductible Cash donations
You can help with a check to cover a part of these ongoing requirements. Tax-deductible cash donations can be put to good use towards all kinds of needs. Here are some concrete ways donations can be applied to make a real difference in the lives of the Iraqi refugees:

  • $10 represents one umbrella or one basic toolkit
  • $20/month represents one Student Bus Pass for one month
  • $20 will purchase one effective "Krypton" bicycle lock
  • $35 represents one pair of winter boots for one child
  • $40 represents one oscillating fan to cool one room
  • $40 represents one pair of winter boots for one adult
  • $75 represents a twenty-four hour rental of a U-Haul cargo van or pickup truck (two 25 mile trips plus insurance & gas)
  • $180 represents one Student Bus Pass for the entire school year


If you have items to donate and would like them picked up, there are three organizations you might consider, which benefit people in need in this area:

International Institute of New England

144 Merrimack Street, Suite 302

Lowell, MA 01852

Tel: (978) 459-9031

Fax: (978) 459-0154

Rebecca Feldman, Director


Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts

530 Main Street

Acton, MA 01720

General messages/Furniture pickup line: 978-635-1763

Client/Agency Appointment line: 978-635-1739 (no email)


Agency Coordinator (contact for agency staff with special

requests or issues NOT related with appointments)

Volunteer: 978-635-0134

Volunteer email:

Jo-Ann Berry, Volunteer Coordinator


Lowell Wish Project

1 A Foundry Street

Lowell, MA 01852

Tel: 978-441-WISH


For $ donations, please click the "Donate" button on the LIFT web site for online donations or send a check made out to 'First Parish in Bedford' with 'LIFT Fund' in the Memo line. Donations to the church are tax deductible. Your company may match your donation, so please check if that is the case. Send checks to First Parish in Bedford, 75 Great Rd. Bedford, MA 01730.


New Middle Eastern Restaurant Open in Lowell!

LIFT enthusiastically recommends the charming new Babylon Restaurant at 25 Merrimack Street in Lowell? (next to the CVS pharmacy). Two or three Iraqi families are involved in this enterprise, which is wholly owned by one of the more recently arrived families. Please support this ground-breaking achievement by stopping by - they are open for lunch and dinner and welcome drop-ins (i.e. no reservation needed).

Starting a restaurant is no small feat for anyone - figuring out all the red tape and endless documentation, permits and start-up administrivia in a new country when you've only been here a few months is amazing! Chris Rabinowitz, several other volunteers and I have eaten there and we can sincerely recommend it highly!

Here's a message from Leyla Al-Zubaydi, Director:
"We serve some of the finest Middle Eastern foods; Arabic, Persian and Turkish in addition to some American dishes. An experience you’ll remember for years."

Tel: 978-710-4278

If you visit the Babylon Restaurant, please let us know what you think!


We need your Help!

As the school year draws to a close, we are wrapping up our monthly School Bus Pass program, which has enabled 15 Iraqi students to travel to and from Lowell High School. Each pass costs $20 and has been wholly paid for by parishioner contributions. Along with grants from First Parish's Social Responsibility Council your contributions have also supported our Winter 2010 Footwear program, providing 68 pairs of boots for incoming Iraqi refugees. Our Bed Bug Remediation program, also funded by the SRC, has brought relief and protection to many needy families.

Please keep your donations coming to sustain these programs and to support us as we plan new initiatives to help the Iraqi community in the coming months. As their numbers grow, so do their needs, as well as their successes! Several families are doing well and have jobs and their own transportation - but many are struggling in Lowell while enduring sometimes tragic losses of family members and friends back in Iraq.

We welcome offers of help in the form of $ donations, partnering and social support - we need callers and organizers, hosts and visitors, lifters and drivers! If you would like to become involved in supporting our many Iraqi friends in Lowell, please contact Charlie Frean or Chris Rabinowitz. You may also send an email to us at


The second LIFT Lyceum was held on February 13th in the sanctuary of First Parish in Bedford. Here is a brief synopsis (by Charlie Frean):

This past Sunday we held the second LIFT Lyceum to provide parishioners and visitors the opportunity to hear first-hand from three Iraqi women how they have experienced their resettlement in Lowell. Our advance publicity for this Lyceum, which appeared in the Parishioner, in emails to the Anno and Disc lists, as well as on the First Parish and LIFT web sites, stated:

"Please join us for First Parish in Bedford's 2nd LIFT Lyceum. This lively and informative meeting is open to everyone who is interested in and concerned with supporting the Iraqi refugee families in Lowell and nearby towns.

This Lyceum will feature two or three Iraqi women who have been invited to speak about their experiences since arriving in Lowell. We are very grateful to them for agreeing to help us understand what it's like to settle your family in a distant and unfamiliar land."

Their accounts were at once fascinating, articulate and moving to say the least. Many parishioners will remember the first LIFT Lyceum (November 22nd, 2009), which drew the most attendees of any Lyceum to that date. I was encouraged that, despite several scheduling conflicts, we still were able to attract around 30 parishioners and their guests.

Many of the attendees were clearly moved and most were warmly supportive of these impressive and courageous women, for whom speaking out in public in their homeland would all too recently have been at best inadvisable and more likely just plain dangerous. They spoke of some of the difficulties they have experienced since being forced to flee their homeland, seeking refuge in Syria, Lebanon or Jordan, before ultimately arriving in a strange and distant land - the trauma of forced emigration coupled with the culture shock of finding yourself having to sleep on the floor of a dirty, sometimes infested small, barren apartment in a poor neighborhood of Lowell, the hardship of accessing supermarkets when you have no personal transportation and a confusing or inadequate public transportation system, the impossibility of transferring your professional qualifications, scarcity of decent or even low-paying jobs, child care availability, to say nothing of the language barrier ... and more.

One woman even shared for the first time that she had witnessed the violent death of her husband in Iraq.


It was a moving and memorable event. If you are interested in learning more about the Iraqi refugees in Lowell and how you can help to make a difference in their lives, please contact Charlie Frean or Chris Rabinowitz. You may also send an email to us at



You can now donate directly to the LIFT fund by clicking on the PayPal Donate button on the LIFT web site.

Thank you for your 501(c)(3) tax-deductible donation, which goes directly to
the Lowell Iraqi Families Team fund maintained by First Parish in Bedford.



• On-going Need for Partner Families!
We have an ongoing need for "partner families" for several of the Iraqi families living in Lowell. If you can help or would like further information,  please contact Charlie Frean or Chris Rabinowitz (or email

Our goal is to have a 'partner family' for every one of the families that have requested one. It can be an individual or a couple or a whole family. There are several families who speak little or no English and they are especially in need of friendship and someone to help them navigate the confusing "system" here in America.

A "partner family" is someone who can provide friendship, perhaps invite the family to lunch or dinner at their home, take the family for a ride, for home-made ice cream or other season activity, help them figure out mail that they get that they don't understand, etc. It can be as little or as much contact as people have time/energy for.

Below are one-line descriptions of some of the families that have requested a partner. More families arrive each month, so the need is on-going. Some speak good English, others none ... Those with limited/No English include:
  1. family of 6 -- four kids under 10, with youngest being not quite 2 yr.
  2. family of 7 -- three teens, a 5 yr old and a not quite 2 yr old
  3. family of 4 -- two children 2 & 4
  4. family of 8 -- 3 children late teens/early twenties, and 3 children between 7 - 11
Those families who have one or more members who speak good/fairly good English:
  1. Family of 5 - two teens and a 7 year old
  2. Single mom with 4 teen children
  3. Single mom with two adult sons in their 20s
  4. Couple in their 50s
  5. Young couple in their late 20s/early 30s
  6. Family of 5 -- two teens in high school; one in middle school (in Lawrence)
  7. Family of 5 -- three children ages 2-8
Please let Charlie Frean or Chris Rabinowitz know if you have any questions.

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