Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services (RRRS) wins 2024 Cornerstone Award

In the building trades, the cornerstone guides the workers in their course; it is the standard of measure and alignment. The Leviticus Fund presented its 2024 Cornerstone Award to Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services at its Annual Meeting in May in recognition of their welcoming of displaced, vulnerable people in their community with housing, love and support.

RRRS began as an offshoot of Mary’s Place Refugee Outreach Center in northwest Rochester. Mary’s Place focused on immediate and basic needs, but as refugees got used to living in upstate New York they needed additional support to become self-sufficient.

“RRRS doesn’t just help new Americans, they help the whole community,” said Greg Maher, Executive Director of the Leviticus Fund. “Eastman Kodak was one of the biggest businesses in Rochester for one hundred years, with more than 60,000 employees in 1982. When Kodak declared bankruptcy in 2012, many homeowners left, absentee landlords came in, and the neighborhood was devastated. Then the new Americans began to arrive.”

At first, many were living in substandard housing and were not aware of other options. RRRS serves immigrants by trying to “fill the gaps” that are not covered by other organizations. They help new Americans by coordinating the efforts of many agencies, provide stable income support through grants and donations, and as landlords, they get to know families and their needs.

“We have 18 different nationalities in our neighborhood,” said Mike Coniff, Founder and CEO of RRRS. “These refugees have been a stabilizing force. We buy houses that are derelict and fix them up to become the pride of the neighborhood. We rent them to new Americans, and help these families buy their own houses when they are ready. New Americans hold tremendous promise for the future of the city of Rochester.”

According to Maher, “The mission of Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services aligns very closely with the vision of economic and social justice for all people embraced by the Leviticus Fund. We established the Cornerstone Award in 2015 to recognize those who have made extraordinary contributions to promoting poverty relief and social equity, and are pleased to be able to highlight the work of RRRS.”

“We jumped at the opportunity to be able to talk to you,” continued Coniff, “not just to accept the Cornerstone Award, but because we wanted to request your prayers. In the Acts of the Apostles, we learn that St. Peter was liberated from jail through the power of earnest prayer. Today, we ask for your prayers for ourselves, for our organization, and for the refugees throughout the world.”

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The Leviticus 25:23 Alternative Fund is rooted in faith and the call for economic justice. The Fund provides flexible capital, expertise, and advocacy to propel the growth of more equitable communities. Leviticus creates opportunities for vulnerable, low-income people – especially those harmed by systemic racial and ethnic discrimination – to thrive and live with dignity. For more information, visit www.leviticusfund.org .

Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services, Inc. is a non-sectarian, not-for-profit, community-based organization located in northwest Rochester, providing service to refugee families in their community. They collaborate with landlords, employers and agencies to provide services and opportunities to ensure integration of refugees into society. For more information visit www.rochesterrefugeeservices.org .