2020 Board of Director Changes for IWC

In conjunction with the Immigrant Welcome Center’s meeting of the Board of Directors on April 14, 2020, several notable changes to board leadership and membership took place.

After 9 years of tremendous service to the organization as a board member, Karen Friss’ board tenure concluded based on term limits. During her time on the board, Karen held the roles of Chair, Treasurer… Her work advancing the organization immigrants in our community is immeasurable and will be felt for years. We extend our deep appreciation to Karen for her dedication and leadership.

IWC added two distinguished board members, Celia Campbell and Sandro Franchi.

Born in England, raised in Canada and the United States and soon to be a naturalized citizen of the US, Celia has a long history as an immigrant herself. She first connected with IWC as a volunteer with the annual Live Local Think Global event. Celia is a Commercial Banker, Vice President with JP Morgan Chase where she has also chaired Chase’s diversity efforts in Indiana. In addition to her involvement with IWC, Celia is active with IndyHumane, Indy Pride and Women4Change. Welcome, Celia!

Sandro Franchi grew up in Florence, Italy, which remains home to members of his immediate family. Sandro’s career with Eli Lilly started in Italy and took him around the world. During the course of his career he has held leadership positions in finance, sales and marketing, and human resources, retiring as the Global Senior Director of Leadership. He and his wife, Jan, are both naturalized U.S. citizens. Sandro also serves on the Board for the Eskenazi Health Foundation, The Advisory Board for the Greg Fehribach Center, and the Advisory Board for Christel House. Welcome, Sandro!

The leadership of IWC’s Board of Directors also changed in April. We welcome Neelay Bhatt as the new Board President, following his time as Vice President and the tenure of Rick Miller as President. Rick remains a member of the Executive Committee as Immediate Past President. Angela Adams has taken on the role of Vice President. Naomi Kwang is our new Board Treasurer, following dedicated service in this role by Jackie Nytes. Bob Postlethwait is our new Board Secretary following the admirable work done by Maria Pimental Gannon in this role.

This new cast opens another new chapter for IWC. We are excited for what’s ahead and deeply thankful for the time, talent and treasure every one of our board members brings.

2020 Census

The United States census takes place every ten years in order to determine how many people live in our country.  The statistics provided by this survey are integral in many government assessments and programs therefore it is essential that everyone living in the U.S., regardless of citizenship status, take part.  To better understand your impact on the census, it’s important to understand why and how the survey is conducted.

Political Power

The number of congressional seats as well as electoral votes that each state gets is based on census data.  Taking part ensures that Indiana maintains its political power based on population.

Federal Funding

Up to $880 billion in federal funding distribution is based on census results.  This money is allocated for community improvement, including schools, roads, and other public services.  Your involvement in the census will make sure that Indianapolis receives its share of federal funding.


Business Investment

Corporations use demographic data from the census survey to determine where their business is needed.  Your community can benefit by ensuring that grocery stores, gas stations, and other retail or service businesses are located nearby.

Community Organizations

Local organizations and nonprofits use census data to help refine their purpose and target their resources toward people in the community.  To ensure that these organizations can continue providing services, it is important to take part in the census.

How the Census Works

The census is a safe and confidential survey to determine statistical information of the people who live in the United States.  It is federal law that this information cannot be shared with anyone, including law enforcement and immigration. Whether or not you are a citizen, your contribution is critical to ensure that accurate data is collected.  The census will not ask you about your citizenship status. 

It is very easy to complete the survey – you can do so online or by phone or mail.  If you do not choose to complete the survey through one of these methods, census workers will begin going door-to-door at the end of April.  Your information will still remain confidential – but this will be more time-consuming, so it is recommended that you complete the survey online or by mail prior to the end of April.


Though it only happens once every ten years, the census impacts our communities – nationally as well as locally.  You may or may not be a naturalized citizen of the United States but taking part in our census is a way for you to contribute to the resources, funding, and power your community has.

Other resources:




Enjoying the Season with IWC’s Natural Helpers

Natural Helpers told us what they like to do in autumn and what they are thankful for this year.

Chandra Newsletter Photo“My favorite autumn activity in Indiana is visiting Kelsay Farms for a Family Picnic. Here we can show the kids what a real farm looks like with plenty of activities. We can feed the cows here and see how the cows are milked.”

Chandra Kesavan has been a Natural Helper since Spring 2016. His country of origin is India and he speaks Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, and English.


“I am thankful for the opportunity for being a God’s instrument for helping others when they are most  in need. My best reward: the joy of seeing people fulfilling their dreams.”

Maryori Duarte-Sheffield has been a Natural Helper since 2009. Her country of origin is Venezuela and she speaks Spanish and English.


“I am grateful for having the time and energy which permits me to help people form many countries of the world and to continue to visit some of these places in my travels.”

Kathleen Lattimer has been a Natural Helper since 2013. Her country of origin is the United States of America and she speaks English and French.


Linda“My favorite autumn activity in Indiana is driving through Brown County for the turning of the leaves. Coming from a country without the 4 seasons, the different colors are a beautiful and wondrous thing for me to see each year.”

Linda Simba has been a Natural Helper since Summer 2017. Her country of origin is Kenya and she speaks English and Swahili.


Bumeh“I am thankful for ‘putting knowledge into practice.’ ”

Bumeh Maria has been a Natural Helper since Summer 2017. Her country of origin is Burma and she speaks Karenni, Burmese, and English.


Hilina Fessahaie (Eritrea)“I’m thankful to finally feel that I have the opportunity to realize any dream I want to pursue.”

Hilina Fessahaie has been a Natural Helper since early 2017. Her country of origin is Eritrea and she speaks Tigrinya, Amharic, and English.

Gabriella Borbás (Hungary)

“My favorite fall activity in Indianapolis is to walk in downtown streets with my grand-daughter. I especially like walking with her on Mass Ave. when the Halloween Trick or treat is on.”

Gabriella Borbás has been a Natural Helper since early 2017. Her country of origin is Hungary and she speaks Hungarian, Russian, French, and English.

“IWilliam am thankful for God’s protection to all Immigrants in Indianapolis.”

William Dido Kile has been a Natural Helper since Summer 2017. His country of origin is Democratic Republic of Congo and he speaks Swahili, French, Lingala, and English.


“I am grateful to everyone who helped new immigrants, especially children, even with a smile.”

Howaida Abdulahad has been a Natural Helper since 2015. Her country of origin is Syria and she speaks English and Arabic.

Qing“My favorite autumn activity in Indianapolis is running or hiking on different trails around the city. My favorite spot in downtown Indy is probably down by the canal.”

Qing Wang has been a Natural Helper since Summer 2017. Her country of origin is China and she speaks Mandarin Chinese and English.

Julia“I am thankful for being a member of Immigrant Welcome Center. I am also thankful for doing work that matters and for the members of Immigrant Welcome Center of helpers who are making a difference in the community and in the world.”

Julia Plehmeh has been a Natural Helper since Summer 2017. Her country of origin is Burma and she speaks Kayah.

Graham“I am grateful for all of the help the IWC and Natural Helpers give the Indy immigrant community. Also, I am very grateful to God for friends and family that give me unconditional love and support all the time!”

Graham Melendez has been a Natural Helper since Summer 2017. His country of origin is Peru and he speaks English and Spanish.

jose_pic1“I am grateful for my family. We have had our ups and downs, but they are really my foundation. I am grateful for my church and my church brothers and sisters that make me fell like I have second family to encourage me when I am facing tough situations in life.”

Joseph (José) Acosta has been a Natural Helper since 2013. His country of origin is México and he speaks English and Spanish.

Barbara“My Favorite Fall activity is the First Friday art show at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in November when Kyle Ragsdale is the featured artist and Spirit and Place events are in the gym. I am grateful for people who are willing to work out their differences with each other.”

Barbara Van Vleet has been a Natural Helper since summer 2017. Her country of origin is the United States and she speaks English and conversational Spanish.

Bakya Alabi (Benin)“I’m grateful for all the Immigrant Welcome Center is doing for immigrants. I do like to work with nice people from everywhere that are working with love and passion to serve others to meet their needs. It’s just a great and helpful program!”

Bakya Alabi has been a Natural Helper since early 2017. Her country of origin is Benin and she speaks English, Yoruba, Fon, and Nago.

Preh Reh“Autumn is my most favorite season. I like to go for a long walk, feel the wind whirling through my hair, and take the best pictures of the year within the beautiful colorful trees. Autumn is just the best season of the year for love. I can’t expect anything better than that.”

Preh Reh has been a Natural Helper since summer 2017. His country of origin is Burma and he speaks English, Karenni, Karen and Burmese.

Verne Flavious (St. Lucia)“My favorite thing to do in autumn here is participate in my church’s Thanksgiving dinner give away for the community. I am thankful for my family & the ability to serve my community.”

Verne Flavius has been a Natural Helper since early 2017. Her country of origin is St. Lucia and she speaks English and Creole.


Christian“My favorite fall activity in Indianapolis is networking with people. I am thankful for being part of the Immigrant Welcome Center as an Natural Helper.”

Christian Ngalula Matamba has been a Natural Helper since summer 2017. His country of origin is Democratic Republic of Congo and he speaks English, French, Swahili, Lingala and Ciluba.

Check out a map of the places of origin of all of our Natural Helpers, a list of the languages they speak, or learn more about the program.

Newsletter Thank You

Create Understanding, Connect Neighbors, & Raise Awareness


Indianapolis is now more multicultural than it has ever been, but as recent news around immigration reform has shown, we have much more work to do to build bridges between new immigrants and native-born residents. The Immigrant Welcome Center connects immigrants to resources to support our growing multicultural community.

Create Understanding


Our Welcoming Indianapolis initiative helps immigrants and Indianapolis residents find common ground. We sponsor cultural events and community discussions that enhance native Hoosiers’ understanding of their new neighbors, while immigrants learn about the customs and cultural differences of their new hometown.

Connect Neighbors


We rely on hard-working volunteer immigrants, known as Natural Helpers, who help connect newcomers to opportunities that will help them succeed. To improve access to services, Natural Helpers speak more than 45 different languages and are often paired with fellow immigrants who live nearby. We also have five Neighborhood Branches situated in the city’s most diverse areas, where immigrants can learn how to connect with our 90+ community partners.

Raise Awareness


Our staff provides community outreach sessions with local leaders, elected officials, and social and public service professionals to create greater awareness of these new Americans and the barriers they face. These informed leaders help us create a welcoming and immigrant-friendly community. 


Donate today to ensure Immigrant Welcome Center continues to create understanding, connect neighbors and raise awareness of the skills, talents and cultures of these new Hoosiers. All gifts through December 31 will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $5,000 by a generous Immigrant Welcome Center supporter.