Celebrating 100 Years of Cultural Diversity

Immigrants arriving in the Siouxland community is nothing new. Neither is the place that they turn to for help when they arrive. Since 1921 when the Sioux City Community House was established, immigrants have had a place where they are welcomed and celebrated when they arrive in the Siouxland community.

What began as the Sioux City Community House in April 1921, was renamed the Mary J. Treglia Community House in November 1956 to honor the woman who had spent so much of her life dedicated to helping immigrants feel welcome in the community. Mary J. Treglia made it her life’s work to help foreign-born people become familiar with our language and customs. Her passion for helping immigrants lives on through Executive Director, Becky Carlson, and her staff. They continue her mission by welcoming, educating, empowering, and advocating for all new Siouxlanders. 

According to Becky Carlson, the Siouxland Community has a large population of minorities, which creates a wonderful and broad diversity. Carlson said, “we believe cultural diversity strengthens our community,” and that “we strive to identify and respond to the needs of the immigrant population in Siouxland through education, services, advocacy, and celebration of diversity.” Many immigrants and refugees come from environments that are unsafe, which causes them to have a difficult time asking for help when they arrive. Everyone at the Mary J. Treglia Community House strives to make the immigrants and refugees feel comfortable coming there, asking for help, and to feel welcome in the community. 

The Mary J. Treglia Community House offers a wide range of services to those who seek help there. Services range from preschool, ESL classes for adults, Citizenship and Legal Immigration services for those seeking citizenship, and permanent residency or work permits in the U.S. Their Family Services Program includes a broad range of services to assist with completing applications for employment, housing, DHS, and medical services. Through these efforts, the Mary Treglia Community House makes possible self-sufficiency and empowerment of the individual.

The preschool currently has students from 10 different countries, speaking a variety of primary languages, and all learning English while at school. ESL classes are offered to adults Monday through Thursday each week, and Friday’s classes are devoted to citizenship. The citizenship classes help prepare the candidates for their interview, which can cover 100 questions they must know to be able to pass to enable them to become citizens, also while demonstrating that they can speak English. 

In addition to the services that have been offered since they were first established 100 years ago, the Mary J. Treglia Community House has added programs to help those new to the area as the organization has evolved. They became a remote settlement agency in 2017, through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, creating a partnership to assist in helping locally sponsored refugees settle in Siouxland. They provide services for the refugees for their first 90 days in order to help them with proper housing, food, and weather-appropriate clothing, as well as finding employment and signing up for ESL courses. They continue to provide services after the initial 90 days as they are needed.

Legal Services also include naturalization clinics at various times each year, where attorneys work with immigrants to complete necessary forms and help them through the naturalization process. A recent Oath Ceremony was held where 26 people became U.S. Citizens through the individual’s efforts in conjunction with the Mary Treglia Community House. 

Another feature that the organization has added is offered in partnership with Western Iowa Tech Community College on their radio station, KWIT, where the local news is translated into five languages. This is shared through social media and can also be found on the Mary J. Treglia Community House website and the KWIT website (www.kwit.org). A community garden has recently been added, along with cooking and healthy eating classes to help immigrants become accustomed to available local foods that may be new to them.

A partnership with the United Way of Siouxland, which is also celebrating its 100 Year Anniversary, helps provide part of the funding for the Mary J. Treglia Community House along with donations from individuals, other businesses, and organizations, as well as local churches. They collaborate with many of the Siouxland area organizations to provide services, programs and assistance, including Siouxland District Health, the American Red Cross Northwest Iowa and Northeast Nebraska Chapters, the South Sioux City Public Library, and Sunnybrook Community Church. 

Donations can be mailed to the Mary J. Treglia Community House, 900 Jennings Street, Sioux City, IA 51105, or made securely through a link on their website, www.marytreglia.org. They are a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, so your donation may be tax-deductible. 

By Michelle Lessmann

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