News Release

The Church’s Welcome Centers Help Immigrants Live Better Lives

These volunteer-powered operations are found throughout North America

When Dan and Lorrie Curriden look at the faces of the immigrants they serve in Las Vegas, they see the courage of their own immigrant grandparents.

Whether one is a new immigrant or five generations removed from one, Dan said, “we all benefit from the fact that somebody in our ancestry had the guts to leave the place where they came from, into the unknown, and find a better life for their children in this great country.”

The Curridens volunteer at a Welcome Center for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in East Las Vegas. This is one of more than a dozen such centers throughout seven states and one Canadian province. All are part of the Church’s Immigrant Services Initiative, which since 2015 has helped immigrants and refugees integrate into their new communities.

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Dan and Lorrie, along with many other volunteers, help immigrants find access to community legal services, improve their English, strengthen emotional resilience, progress on the path to citizenship and better understand American culture so that they can obtain better jobs and live better lives. The legal services are done in partnership with local university law schools.

And all these services are free for immigrants.

“We connect our patrons with the resources in the community that they may need, whatever that resource might be,” Lorrie said. “It’s wonderful to offer a full slate of services based on what people need when they come through the door. Our goal is to help them determine their areas of greatest need and figure out a way we can help them.”

Because of the high number of Hispanics in Las Vegas (approximately 700,000 or nearly one in three residents), the Welcome Center there is tailored to serve that population.

Sister Arianna Mestre of Venezuela, a missionary who has learned English on her mission in the Western United States, helps immigrants in Las Vegas improve their English.

“It feels really good [to help people],” she said. “It’s the reason why I came on a mission — to love and to serve. It’s been amazing. I really like meeting new people every week and seeing the same people also coming and seeing them grow with their English. It’s really, really good to help them.”

In addition to the English courses, Las Vegas patron Juana Guzman said the class on immigration helped her understand the processing delays with her [citizenship] papers. “It will help me a lot because I’m waiting for my permanent residency,” she said. It helped in understanding the timeline, that immigration is further delayed because of COVID.”

At the Mesa Welcome Center in Arizona, which also serves the Hispanic community, program coordinator Dinorah Alfaro Graham said the center’s beneficiaries have sometimes described the volunteers as angels — a humbling appellation. “[It’s] a big responsibility to see that we are instruments of God,” Graham said. “When I came here and I saw all the people that were coming, I had this overwhelming feeling that testified to me, ‘These are the people that you must work with.’”

One of those people is Gesseca Hooeer of Ecuador, who said finding the Mesa Welcome Center was nothing short of a miracle.

“[When I first came to America] I was looking for resources around me [to help] learn the language with more people like me,” she said. “This was the last option — and my best option, my best decision.”

The center has also been a boon for Ernesto Cabello of Mexico, who came to the United States a year and a half ago to help his daughter and her new American family. He said he is thankful for the familial warmth and kindness he has found in the welcome center — as well as the progress he has made with his English.

“The people are very friendly in general and open to talk and to help. If one is in trouble, they are willing to help in some way,” Cabello said. “It’s a nice experience getting along with teachers. They are very dedicated and have devotion for their mission. They are very knowledgeable. I enjoy being here as an English student.”

In 2020, the number of immigrants served at Welcome Centers rose by more than 15 percent thanks to technology. Going forward, welcome centers will continue to offer in-person and virtual services.

“This is a most wonderful opportunity to bless the lives of the Hispanic people,” said Elder Robert Jeffrey Parker, an Area Seventy in the North America Southwest Area. “Whether it be family history, whether it be job, whether it be addiction recovery, whether it be in life skills and life helps, they will be blessed in so many ways. … Everyone that’s engaged in this process will walk away … thrilled, uplifted and edified because that which they are doing is the work that Christ wants them to do.”

Fellow Area Seventy Elder Broc Hiatt said one must see far beyond the political and recognize the core identity of another — especially of immigrants.

“It doesn’t matter how they got here,” Elder Hiatt said. “Our concern is that they are children of Heavenly Father, and they need help. We can provide it, and we’ve covenanted to provide it. We are simply here to love Heavenly Father’s children and provide the help to them that He would provide if He was here.”

Sister Curriden in Las Vegas said this service is fundamentally about living as Jesus Christ lived.

“The Savior went about doing good,” she said. “He taught the scriptures, but he also fed people, and he also healed people. He blessed their lives temporally as well as spiritually. That really feels like our mission to do His work and follow the spirit and the love of people in His name.”

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