Welcoming Erie


Erie is proud to be a member of Welcoming America, a network organization that helps Erie unleash the power of New Americans, create a stronger community, and gain economic advantage. Erie is in the process of becoming a Certified Welcoming city – the highest designation reserved for cities and counties that meet rigorous requirements defining what it means to be a welcoming community.

Resources for Immigrants, Refugees, and New Americans

  • Niken A Carpenter, call at 814-870-1345 or email: nastari@erie.pa.us
  • Representatives of the Organizations

    1. Erie County Department of Health
      Website: https://eriecountypa.gov/departments/health/
      Alivia Haibach

      Alivia Haibach was born and raised in the US. She graduated from Allegheny College in 2013 with a degree in International Relations, with a focus on the MENA region. She works at the Erie County Department of Health as the Health Equity Coordinator. After graduating from Allegheny, she had the opportunity to live internationally for a few years. Alivia has previously lived in China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. Living overseas, (especially in places where her majority spoken language skills were limited) gave her a healthy dose of perspective around exactly how difficult navigating unfamiliar government systems can be. She says, “We can not succeed as a city if everyone cannot receive equitable opportunities in Erie. We should honor and respect New Americans and become a true welcoming city where all people are respected and treated in equitable ways. Erie has served as a major resettlement destination in the past. It is large enough to have the key infrastructure newly resettled refugees rely on, but small enough that the cost of living is affordable. I really enjoy my work and look forward to seeing more New Americans in Erie.”

    2. Erie Asian Pacific American Association
      Website: https://www.erieapaa.org
      Aman Oberoi

      Aman Oberoi is a Registered Nurse by profession. However she chose to be a homemaker after her children were born. She is the President of Erie-APAA (Erie Asian American Pacific Association). She is originally from the Northern part of India and migrated to the USA to advance her career in December of 2004. Since then she has lived in different states, namely Florida, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and now Pennsylvania. She moved to Erie in 2014 as her husband, Dr. Udgiri, took a job as a Vascular Surgeon at Saint Vincent Hospital in Erie. She started by being a volunteer for Erie-APAA and then became the organization’s Indian Representative. While in that role her notable organizational contributions include Multicultural Asia Day at Experience Children’s Museum and at Celebrate Erie. Besides these, the Asian Festival and Taste of Asia are some of the key events that she is proud to have been a part of.

    3. Multicultural Community Resource Center
      Website: http://www.mcrcerie.org
      Courtney Tirak

      Moved to Erie in 1992 to attend Gannon University. Graduated with a Spanish degree with the goal of teaching Spanish in elementary schools. Ended up teaching in schools for four years, after which she worked with inner city children and in adult education with ESL students. Was ultimately drawn to working with refugees after learning the difficult reality of having to learn a new language in a different environment. Currently works for MCRC.

    4. USCRI-Erie/International Institute of Erie (IIE)
      Website: https://refugees.org
      Dylanna Grasinger

      Dylanna Grasinger moved to Erie in 2012 to assume the Executive Director position at USCRI Erie, after leading human services agencies in the Midwest, Pittsburgh and Akron, Ohio. She was drawn to Northwest Pennsylvania’s potential and quickly realized that Erie County was the place she wanted to grow her roots. Dylanna understands that people are what make Erie County special, and this is what connects her to the community. Having worked with refugees and immigrants for over two decades, she understands the importance of a diverse and inclusive community. Experienced in a variety of direct service and administrative functions, including grant-writing, curriculum design, teaching, program evaluation, fiscal management, volunteer management, and program development, Dylanna combines her commitment to refugees and immigrants with her superpower of simplifying complex issues to create strong client-centered programming and long-lasting systemic change that works. In addition to her work leading USCRI Erie for the past nine years, Dylanna volunteers her time with the Certification for Healthcare Interpreters Board of Commissioners and the Erie Mayor’s New American Council, and as a board member for Bike Erie, Multicultural Healthcare Evaluation Delivery System (MHEDS), and UPMC Hamot Diversity Committee. She is one of the leading organizers of Boulevard Park Association in 2016, an Erie neighborhood group working to connect neighbors. Dylanna earned her B.A. in English from Kent State University, where she also received certification in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), as well as a Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution from Creighton University.

    5. F. Smith Quality of Life Learning Center
      Website: https://uecdc.org
      Gary Horton

      Gary currently works with the Rev. E. F. Smith Quality of Life Learning Center. He also works with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as their President for the Erie Chapter. In the New American Council, Gary is a supporter of the aspirations of New Americans in Erie. Gary has an appreciation of being a New American due to the United States’ history of slavery. Through his ancestry, he has gained an appreciation of New Americans and their placement into the Erie community today. Gary considers himself a religious person and believes that the church is a welcoming place to all. He wants New Americans to be able to utilize their skills, which will allow them to prosper in the Erie community. Gary believes the school system must serve the challenges that New Americans face when it comes to education and communicating with students. He would like to learn more ways the City can maximize their return under the American Rescue Plan. This money can help to prioritize and fuel the dreams of marginalized groups while cultivating hope. Gary would also like to discuss a county resolution to declare racism as a public health issue and explore more opportunities to bring this situation to light.

    6. Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services
      Website: https://www.cccas.org
      Joe Haas

      Joe Haas born and raised in the US. He works as a CEO at Catholic Charities and Adoption Services (CCAS). He received his Masters of Science in Counseling from Gannon University and received his undergraduate degree from Allegheny College in Meadville. Joe says, “Diversity is our strength. We start to recognize the differences of new Americans to make the city a better place. New Americans need to feel included – that their values are being recognized, understood and respected. Diverse population in Erie can result in more innovation, and creativity as well.” Joe became the CCCAS Chief Executive Officer in 2008 following Bob McCrarey’s retirement from the agency. Joe is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Pennsylvania, is Board certified by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) and has Level II Clinical Trauma certification through the International Association of Trauma Professionals (CCTP – II). Prior to coming to CCCAS, Joe worked at Family Services of NWPA for 18 years starting off as a Family-Based Mental Health (FBMH) counselor, then moving to a supervisor of in-home counseling programs before becoming the agency’s Chief Information Officer.

    7. Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Network
      Website: https://www.ssjnn.org
      Margarita Dangel

      Margarita works at the Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Network. She immigrated from Germany to the United States after having completed a degree in Special Education. She wanted to explore a year of service after completing her degree. As she looked for an appropriate placement, she discovered the Benedictine Sisters of Erie. They were committed to serving the poor and named and addressed the injustices they saw. Margarita initially intended to serve for one year, but she knew after a few months that she wanted to stay in Erie, as the Benedictine way of life offered her a way to serve and promised very enriching experiences. As a member of the New American Council, Margarita would like to see New Americans who are struggling with integrating into the community get the help and resources they need for a smooth transition. She believes it is important to find the best communication pattern for each group of New Americans. To Margarita, only through improved communication can the council begin to discuss what struggles each group faces and what is needed to assist them.

    8. Multi-cultural Health Evaluation Delivery System, Inc.
      Website: http://www.mheds.org
      Patricia Stubber

      Dr. Stubber’s education includes a BS in Medical Technology from the University of Pennsylvania, an MBA, and a PhD from Gannon University. Her doctoral dissertation was titled “The Impact of Culture on Health: A Case Study of Bhutanese Refugees.” During her career, she has worked in leadership positions in clinical laboratories, hospital administrations, private and hospital-owned physician practices, home care agencies and, before joining the Multi-cultural Health Evaluation Delivery System (MHEDS) as the CEO, she was the Executive Director of the North West Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center (NW PA AHEC). The AHEC program is a nationwide program whose mission is to increase access to primary care for rural and underserved areas.Dr. Stubber’s education includes a BS in Medical Technology from the University of Pennsylvania, an MBA and a PhD from Gannon University. Her doctoral dissertation was titled “The Impact of Culture on Health: A Case Study of Bhutanese Refugees.” During her career she has worked in leadership positions in clinical laboratories, hospital administrations, private and hospital-owned physician practices, home care agencies and, before joining the Multi-cultural Health Evaluation Delivery System (MHEDS) as the CEO, she was the Executive Director of the North West Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center (NW PA AHEC). The AHEC program is a nationwide program whose mission is to increase access to primary care for rural and underserved areas.

    9. St. Benedict Education Center
      Website: http://www.sbec.eriebenedictines.org
      Tahaa Najeem
      Taha works for the St. Benedict Education Center as a case manager. He addresses the needs of refugees in the Employment Advancement and Retention Network (EARN). In addition, Taha works with clients in the Refugee Social Services Program who is subcontracted by Erie’s Multicultural Community Resource Center (MCRC). He works with refugees who have been in the United States for less than five years and helps them with various services they need. Taha is a member of the New American Council who serves the council in its efforts to make Erie a safe and responsive environment for New Americans. Taha received his Bachelor’s degree in English and Literature while in Iraq. In 2003, Taha began a job with the United States Army’s Civil Service Team, which needed people to translate Arabic to English. Due to sectarian violence, he moved to the United States. He applied for a visa which took eight months to be processed. Once the process was completed, Taha moved to the United States with his wife and four children. Taha wants to encourage New Americans to become United States citizens. He believes there should be avenues for immigrants and refugees to get the help they need to take the civics test and become self-sufficient members of the community. Preserving culture is important to Taha, and he believes we should find more ways to support New Americans to preserve their culture once they immigrate to Erie.

    Community Representatives

    1. Ammarah Asad

    Ammarah Asad was born in Pakistan, and moved to America in 2001. She is a physician, and worked as an ultrasound instructor and technician for 6 years in New Jersey. Ms. Asad is a member of the Mayor’s New American Council, The membership chairperson of AAUW, and Pakistani representative for the Erie APAA. Being part of these organizations gives her an opportunity to give back to the community and contribute to the effort to make Erie a diverse and welcoming city. Her husband is a physician and she is the proud mother of two children; her son is a physician and her daughter has completed her Masters degree in business.

    1. Anna Tischenko

    Anna Tischenko is a native of Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic. She arrived in the US in 2004 with her family. She says the first two years after arrival, it was very hard for her and her family to adapt to their new environment. She faced several problems including finding a secure job, buying a car and securing housing, and providing education for her children. Anna says everything depends on you, and you will find opportunities if you work hard every day. She has been a case manager and Russian language interpreter for the refugee community for several years. She works at Multi-cultural Health Evaluation Delivery Systems.

    1. Bhim Gurung

    Bhim Gurung works as a chief marketing officer at A Plus United Home Care.  He was born in Bhutan. In 1992, the ongoing political crisis in Bhutan forced him into exile. Since his family was able to speak Nepalese, the country Nepal gave them a small area to live in as refugees. Bhim was 12 years old when he arrived in Nepal. He and his family had to stay in a small, bamboo hut in Nepal, but fortunately CARITAS NEPAL (under UNHCR) provided them with education. His family struggled for nutrition since the amount of food provided by UNHCR was not sufficient. His parents had to go outside the camp and work for local people, because they were not allowed to work good paying, professional jobs. In 2012, he arrived in Erie, USA with his family. His parents struggled to adapt to the new environment. They were uneducated and the new environment was totally different from Nepal. After his arrival, Bhim started working at a store. This paid little, but it was enough to support his family along with public welfare assistance. He started working in the Erie Casino simultaneously, and  the casino paid better. In 2014, he realized his community needed a grocery store within walking distance and opened a convenience store.

    1. Benjamin Aysan

    Benjamin Aysan was born and raised in Turkey. He started his career as a chemistry teacher. He moved to America with his wife and two children in 2010 and has managed Turkish Cultural Centers in Portland and Salt Lake City. He is currently working as Executive Director of Erie Turkish Cultural Center  and Community Outreach Coordinator of Turkish Cultural Center Pittsburgh. He is a professional calligraphy artist and currently lives in Pittsburgh.

    1. Dharma Gurung

    Dharma Gurung was born in India. She moved to Nepal in 1992 as a Bhutanese refugee. She came to Erie in 2011 to pursue the American dream. Dharma says, ” I struggled a lot when I arrived in the USA. I had lots of problems including the language barrier, financial issues, and adapting to a new environment. I used to do 2-3 jobs every day after I came to the USA at the beginning to survive. America is a land of  opportunity. If you work hard,you can grab lots of nice opportunities to achieve your dream. Hard work pays off.” She started her own business in 2018 in Erie and her business is doing very well.

    1. Edin Selimovic

    Edin Selimovic was born and raised in Bosnia. He works at the Erie Community Corrections Center. He completed his high school in 1991 in Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1992-2000, he served in the Bosnian army. Edin is a survivor of the Srebrenica Genocide of 1995. He arrived in the United States in 2001 with his family. While he says the process of coming to this country was difficult, once here he could easily adjust to living in the US because of the many challenges he had faced in Bosnia. He was not able to speak English after he came to this country. Gradually he learned English and worked hard to achieve his goals and dreams. He graduated from Sarajevo University in 2001, with a major in Criminal Justice. Edin also graduated from Mercyhurst University, earning a degree in criminal justice in 2008.

    1. Fatima Ali Mohammed

    Sister Fatima Ali Mohammed aka “Big Mama” is originally from Sudan. She worked in Ghana and in 1996 migrated to the US as a refugee. Since coming to the United States she has worked in human development as well as working with Women Refugees from Africa.

    1. Meera Kumar

    Meera Kumar was born in India and moved to Erie with her husband in 1989. Since then she has received an MBA from Gannon University and has been active in various immigrant communities in the City of Erie. Most of the  work she does now is volunteer based, with her serving as an advocate for the Indian community in Erie, a member of the Erie Asian Pacific American Association, and a board member of MCRC.

    1. Nanda Chuwan

    Nanda Chuwan is originally from Bhutan. In the 1990s, during an ethic cleansing in the country, his family moved to Nepal as refugees and lived there for 17 years. While living in Nepal, Nanda received his master in business studies and taught economics at a high school. After 17 years, the United States provided Nanda and his family an opportunity to immigrate to America. In 2009 he moved to Erie and has since become the Board Secretary of the Bhutanese Community Association.

    1. Nandu Subedi

    Nandu Subedi was born in Bhutan and came to the United States in 2008. After settling in Erie, Nandu took a job with Catholic Charities. At Catholic Charities he has worked in Immigration and Refugee services in which he has helped many members of his community come to America.

    1. Paul Jericho

    Before retiring, Paul Jericho spent over 32 years working on immigrant and refugee policy. He was the Executive Director of the International Institute. Before becoming director of the Institute, he gained an interest in working with immigrants and refugees while working at the Institute. He also worked for the State Department dealing with Kurds living in Iraq. Towards the end of his career, he volunteered at MRC, doing taxes from Immigrants and refugees without charging a fee, something he still does today.

    1. Rabih Hoblos

    Rabih is a Muslim-American originally from Lebanon. He began his career in North Africa working as a chemical engineer for 9 years. In 1992, Rabih came to the United States to pursue the American dream and provide a better standard of life for his family. He began working in Northeastern Ohio then moved to Erie in 2014. After years of hard work, Rabih retired and found himself immersed in the community while spending time at the local mosque. This has brought to light all of the issues society is facing, including racism and discrimination. Knowing his leadership skills would be beneficial in the fight against injustice, he began a new journey to help bring peace to our society. Rabih joined the New American Council as a liaison between the community and the city. He encourages all communities in Erie to have dialogue about matters that are important to them. Rabih believes it is important to discuss the safety of New American communities and how they can better understand various systems in the United States, such as voting and taking the census.

    1. Saad Al-Bidhawi

    Saad Al-Bidhawi was born in Iraq. He arrived in the US in August 1993. He did not speak English when he arrived in the US. Fortunately, the International Institute of Erie helped him to access English classes and find a job after he arrived in this country. He opened his own car repair shop in 1998, and has employed several New Americans in his shop.

    1. Seerajie Dexter

    Seeraji moved to America and settled in Dayton, Ohio. She attended school in Dayton and afterwards moved to Michigan. After leaving there for a couple of years she moved to Edinboro and then finally Erie for her son’s education. She currently works at Edinboro University.

    1. Senada Alihodzic

    Senada Alihodzic has worked at the International Institute of Erie/USCRI Erie since 1994. She has experience in all Refuge Service Programs, including Case Management, Refugee Social Services, and coordination of several federal, state, and local grant programs. She has attended numerous trainings related to her various positions. She is presently working with different refugee groups as a certified Relationship Enhancement trainer; Community Outreach Services and Language Services. She is fluent in Bosnian. Senada values and respects different ethnic groups and cultures as well as the Erie community. She believes that wealth is precisely this diversity, that we can learn something from each other every day and that would increase not only our own knowledge and tolerance but enrich the Erie community as a whole.

    1. Shane Dexter

    Shane works closely with the refugee population in the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program. In this program, he works with members of the Nepali community and uses his knowledge to further the sense of community that Erie is trying to build. Shane is not an immigrant himself, but his mother is. He believes we should be accepting of new cultures and people. The United States, as a world superpower, should take the initiative and be an accepting state in order to showcase leadership when it comes to welcoming new immigrants, refugees, or asylum seekers into the country. Shane would like to see more cultural celebrations become better publicized to create a more positive connotation for immigrants in the Erie community. He would like to discuss general policy for foregin immigrants to be implemented in the City of Erie. To Shane it is important to hear, learn, and see what new Americans are doing in the community in order to promote more cultural awareness for new Americans.

    1. Sharmin Khundker

    Sharmin is the Vice President of the Erie Asian Pacific American Association (Erie APAA). She immigrated from Bangladesh to the United States in 1996 when she married her husband, who was a PhD student at the time. Ten years later, in 2006, Sharmin received her green card, and five years later in 2011, she received her US citizenship. Sharmin’s role in Erie APAA has allowed new Americans to both showcase their cultures through various avenues in the city, and also to network among themselves to form close, cultural communities that support the values of diversity and inclusion alike. Her role has allowed us to expand the role of and integrate new Americans into the greater Erie community. Although there are bridges being made for new Americans, such as the New American Council, Sharmin would like to see more being done so new Americans can have the opportunities to implement their skills throughout the city. She would like to discuss more ways that new Americans can gain representation as well. One of Sharmin’s biggest focuses is the mitigation of the language barrier and the creation of access to transparent communication for new Americans.

    1. Walaa Ahmad

    Walaa works for Penn State Behrend as the Assistant Director of the Office of Educational Equity and Diversity Programs. This office works closely with underrepresented and minority groups and other students to guide and support students in planning educational, social, and cultural events, student leadership involvement, mentorship, and promoting diversity and respect. She serves as a member of the New American Council and helps to share information and opportunities with New Americans in the community. Walaa is also involved as a member of the Better Together Council, where the focus is on Racial Justice Policy Initiative for Erie, and also serves on the board of directors for the Urban Erie Community Development Corporation/E. F. Smith Quality of Life Learning Center. Walaa’s family is from Eritrea but due to war and a dictator in power, her family left seeking peace in Sudan, Iraq, and Jordan. Twenty years ago, her family arrived in the United States. Then in 2008 she became a United States citizen. Walaa would like to see more employment opportunities for New Americans and other minority groups, and support for New Americans who are looking to start their own businesses. In addition, home ownership is an important area of discussion for Walaa. She believes there should be programs or opportunities for New Americans to learn the financial and legal processes to owning a home. ​

    1. Walter Ang

    Walter works as a Communications Specialist for the Erie County Department of Health. He is part of Erie’s Filipino American community, having immigrated from the Philippines in 2015. He is the author of “Barangay to Broadway: Filipno American Theater History.” Walter would like to see more equitable representation and access to opportunities for New Americans in Erie. He supports the New American Council’s efforts in exploring avenues in culture, the arts, commerce, and public health as ways to help New Americans flourish in the City of Erie.

  • Since June 2013 to January 2021, the City of Erie has welcomed 2665 newly sworn United States Citizens from 97 countries of origin.

    During the Schember administration, between 2018, and July 2020, 758 citizens have been sworn in from 75 countries of origin.

    Full List of Countries of Origin

    Resources:

    1. USCIS Buffalo Office
    2. US Federal Courthouse

    Period: 6/7/2013 to 1/13/2021 Newly sworn US Citizens: 2665

    Total Country of Origins:  97

    To see a full list and map of all the countries we have represented in the City of Erie, please visit https://bit.ly/3tWsaPQ

    Country List

    A

    Africa

    Algeria

    Armenia

    Australia

    Austria

    Azerbaijan

    B

    Bangladesh

    Belarus

    Belize

    Bhutan

    Bosnia-Herzegovina

    Brazil

    Burma

    Bulgaria

    Burundi

    C

    Cameroon

    Canada

    Central

    China

    Congo

    Costa Rica

    Croatia

    Cuba

    Czech Republic

    D

    Dominican Republic

    E

    Ecuador

    Egypt

    El Salvador

    Eritrea

    Ethiopia

    F

    Finland

    France

    G

    Germany

    Ghana

    Greece

    Guatemala

    Guyana

    H

    Haiti

    Honduras

    I

    India

    Indonesia

    Iran

    Iraq

    Ireland

    Israel

    Italy

    J

    Jamaica

    Jordan

    J

    Kazakhstan

    Kenya

    Kuwait

    Kyrgyzstan

    L

    Liberia

    M

    Malaysia

    Mexico

    Moldova

    Mongolia

    Morocco

    Myanmar

    N

    Nepal

    Nicaragua

    Nigeria

    Norway

    P

    Pakistan

    Panama

    Paraguay

    Peru

    Philippines

    Poland

    R

    Romania

    Russia

    S

    Sierra Leone

    Somalia

    South Korea

    Soviet Union

    Spain

    Sri Lanka

    Sudan

    Sweden

    Switzerland

    Syria

    T

    Taiwan

    Tanzania

    Thailand

    Trinidad

    Tobago

    Turkey

    U

    Uganda

    Ukraine

    United Kingdom

    Uruguay

    Uzbekistan

    V

    Venezuela

    Vietnam

    Y

    Yemen

    Z

    Zambia

    Zimbabwe

    Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Refugees Resettlement Data

    https://www.dhs.pa.gov/refugeesinpa/Pages/Facts.aspx

  • Both International Institute of Erie (IIE) and Multicultural Community Resource Center (MCRC) are not only providing language services such as translation and interpretation, they also offer English as a Second Language Program. Another place to learn English would be:

  • Need help to prepare tax, contact United Way, Erie Free Taxes: https://www.unitedwayerie.org/ErieFreeTaxes
    • Fire, Police or Medical Emergency, call: 911

    https://eriecountypa.gov/departments/public-safety/

    • Erie Police Department, Non-emergency, call: 814-870-1125
    • Erie Police Department, Officer in Charge, call: 814-870-1120
    • Emergycare, general questions call: 814-870-1010

    Non-emergency transportation, call: 814-870-1020 or visit https://www.emergycare.org

  • Welcome to Erie, Pennsylvania. We know that moving can be a difficult transition. Below, you will find a list of resources you may need to have prior or during the move into your new residence.

    For Electric, please visit: https://www.firstenergycorp.com/content/customer/penelec.html
    For Natural Gas, please visit: https://www.nationalfuelgas.com/utility/forHome/pa/pares.aspx
    For Water, please visit: https://www.eriewater.org/
    For Sewer issues, please visit: https://cityof.erie.pa.us/government/department-of-public-works/bureau-of-sewers/

    Low income housing energy assistance program (LIHEAP) brochures (PDF):
    English
    Spanish

    For general questions and information, whether it is finding childcare, food assistance, care for an aging parent, or utility assistance, dial 211 on your telephone. The United Way of Erie County’s trained resource navigators specialize in assisting you with the help you need. You can also visit https://www.unitedwayerie.org/our-impact/family-stability/2-1-1/ to learn more about their program.

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