Meet Claire Russell
- April 28, 2023
Claire Russell rarely sits still. You’ll often see her with a cart full of fresh, fragrant flowers artfully arranged and ready for placement around the North Hill campus. She and her committee keep the public spaces beautiful with their mastery of floral design.
She’s also busy helping new residents of the United States in search of ways to build beautiful new lives. Claire is a member of the Immigrant Group, one of North Hill’s The Action Groups (TAGs) committees. Through her work and with the help of others, she has gathered household items, clothing, furniture and health and beauty products to help immigrants from around the world settle into life in the United States.
Her project began in February of 2022 as the war in Ukraine began and refugees began arriving on our shores. Working with the American Immigration Council and other non profit groups, she has distributed hundreds of pounds of clothing throughout New England to people in need.
“People come here with nothing but the clothes on their backs sometimes,” she says. “What a gift it is to be able to help them create a new life after surviving a terrible crisis.”
She’s recruited the help of North Hill residents and team members in her work. Boots, shoes, jackets and outerwear were much needed when Ukrainian refugees began to arrive last winter. Residents responded with money and donations of their own. Families of recently deceased residents also gave generously, sometimes donating entire apartments full of furnishings. Claire’s group has been able to gather so many items vital to survival, that North Hill has allowed her to fill two storage cages to use while they await pickup, the most challenging part of the project. In rare cases, non profit organizations will come to pick up the donated goods. At North Hill, it’s generous residents who take the time to drive – even in a snowstorm – to deliver needed supplies. Often the clothing collected has never been worn, furniture never unpacked, shop tools never used.
Donations are in such abundance that Claire and her group were able to clothe and furnish and entire apartment for a Ukrainian family who arrived last year. Claire and the TAGs groups keep residents of North Hill apprised about their work to inspire more giving. They’ve featured documentaries about the issue for residents as part of their programming, and stay in regular communication about their progress.
More recently, the Immigration Group has expanded their work by helping the Immigration Family Services Group (IFSCE) to welcome new residents from Haiti. “The problems for Haitian immigrants when they come to the USA are vast,” says Claire. Language, housing, and a fragmented system for integration make assimilation almost impossible and contribute to a cycle of poverty.”
With regular donations of goods, and appeals for sponsorship, Claire and her group work with IFSCE to help new residents from Haiti navigate the complex bureauracracies that can hamper upwardly mobile aspirations. In fact, IFSCE says that it takes 10-15 years for a family to get on their feet and find success after arriving here. IFSCE partners with government agencies, social services, legal agencies and potential employers to give new residents an optimal chance at success.
Claire and her team embody the generosity and kindness that characterize North Hill’s community. We are lucky to have her.