VAN BUREN COUNTY – Welcoming Michigan has unveiled a billboard just west of Bangor on M-43 West in Van Buren County to send the message, “When Michigan welcomes immigrants, Michigan thrives.” The billboard is part of a positive media campaign organized by Welcoming Michigan, a group working to create a welcoming atmosphere for immigrants across the state.
“So far the feedback has been really positive,” said Welcoming Michigan’s West Michigan Communities Coordinator, Lillie Wolff. “Local residents are excited to see messages that showcase their communities as welcoming to people of all backgrounds,” says Wolff.
The media campaign highlights the important contributions immigrants make to the local culture and economy. “We believe it is in Michigan’s best interest to welcome immigrants,” said Wolff. “Foreign-born residents contribute to the economy as business owners, consumers, students, and are an important part of the workforce, especially in our agricultural region. Working together we can create a more prosperous future.”
Van Buren County is one of four communities where Welcoming Michigan works directly with immigrants and U.S.-born residents to promote mutual respect and understanding. The other communities are Hamtramck, Sterling Heights, and the Chadsey Condon neighborhood of southwest Detroit. “Immigrants are and have long been at the core of what makes Van Buren County a great place to live. The Welcoming Michigan initiative is crucial to help support that tradition and help immigrants feel more welcome here, now and always," said Larry Nielsen, Paw Paw Villager Manager and Welcoming Michigan Advisory Board member.
The billboard in Van Buren County will run through September. During the week of September 15th, Welcoming Michigan and its partners across the country will host National Welcoming Week, a series events that will bring together immigrants and U.S.-born community members in a spirit of unity through community building activities. During this special week a billboard will go up on I-96 near Lansing in an effort to spread a welcoming message and raise awareness about Welcoming Michigan in and around our state’s Capitol.
Welcoming Michigan is one of 22 Welcoming America affiliates around the country that is using positive messaging campaigns to highlight the shared values and contributions of immigrants in local communities. Welcoming Michigan also works with local leaders who help plan and direct activities that bring long-time and new residents together to learn about each other’s values and cultures. This includes things like film screenings, faith encounters, potlucks, and public dialogues to help build connections among community members.