A beautiful, meticulously maintained home in East Moline has been donated to World Relief Quad Cities (WRQC) — the first time ever that the global nonprofit has been given a house to help welcome immigrants and refugees.
Laura Fontaine, WRQC executive director, is overjoyed with the generosity of the longtime volunteer Tammie Lockett, who left her home (2201 4th Street A, East Moline, across from Hillcrest School) and her car to the Moline-based organization. It is currently spotless, and the kitchen is fully stocked, including dishes, cups, glasses and silverware.
“This is amazing,” she said Friday, noting a heartfelt letter she received Sept. 25, 2022 from Lockett’s children Heather, Seth and Kristi. It is the family’s intention for this home to be “for those who had to leave their own homes in distant lands in order to provide a secure place that they may feel welcomed and loved,” the letter says.
They described their Mom as “a source of great strength, wisdom, humor and love for the three of us and her two granddaughters. Her faith in her Savior, Jesus Christ, was foundational and motivated her to work with those in need, love the unlovable, provide for those who could not provide for themselves and welcome those who had been turned away,” the letter says.
“Because of her selfless generosity, she desired that her home go to World Relief in order to bless refugee families that are now separated from their own homes and families in distant countries,” Lockett’s children wrote.
“We thank God for the work of WRQC and ask for His blessing upon them in all that they do to help the least among us,” the letter says. “To lift the refugees high, secure their futures and to provide hope when at times it seems all hope is lost.”
Lockett, 70, of East Moline, passed away unexpectedly on Sept. 1, 2021, after a short illness. She graduated from UTHS in 1969 and from Saint Francis School of Nursing (Peoria) in 1972. Her hands of healing and spirit of compassion brought comfort to countless people, according to her obituary.
The tidy, single-story house in East Moline has three bedrooms, including one in the basement.
WRQC is a nonprofit agency providing services to refugees and immigrants in Western Illinois and Eastern Iowa. They provide financial, emotional, cultural, and spiritual support to refugees – victims of war and persecution around the world – who are being placed in the Quad Cities.
Volunteer for 15 years
Lockett volunteered for about 15 years for World Relief, focusing on taking clients to appointments, showing them around, and introducing them to the area. She worked as a nurse for UnityPoint — Trinity.
“She’d take clients before work and after work,” said Ratko Rastovic, program director for WRQC. “She was just an awesome person, a humanitarian. She was rushing always. Nurses have long hours and she was helping us before work, after work.”
Volunteers are the lifeblood for World Relief, he said.
“They make you want to get up in the morning,” Rastovic (himself an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia) said. “There’s no way we could do what we do without those people.”
This bequest is unprecedented and the WRQC leadership team is still deciding how to use it, he said. Fontaine said WRQC doesn’t want to get in the landlord business and could sell the home (appraised at $140,000) to a refugee family and use proceeds for a fund established in Lockett’s name that could help countless other families.
Rastovic has worked for the nonprofit 23 years, since he moved to the QC as a refugee. He bought his first house in Davenport within eight months.
“This is where the government sent me,” he said of immigrating. “It’s been an incredible experience.”
Bekzod Toorsunov, finance director for WRQC, was resettled in the QC in 2003 from Uzbekistan. “The house will be good for refugees,” he said of the East Moline property, noting it could be used instead of sending them to local hotels after they first get here.
Finding permanent homes usually takes about three weeks, Toorsunov said. WRQC has resettled 348 former Afghans since last fall. He has met three refugee families from Ukraine in the past month, and has translated for them.
Love for America
Fontaine is the daughter of retired U.S. Army Gen. Yves Fontaine (a native of Belgium), who was commanding general of U.S. Army Sustainment Command at Rock Island Arsenal from 2009 to 2011.
“My father always taught us America is the greatest country,” she said. “It is our civic duty, our right, to vote, be proud Americans. He joined the military, served our country for over 30 years. I have found that immigrants and refugees are some of the most proud Americans you will ever find.
“They know the sacrifice; they know what it means, the privileges we have to live in this country,” Fontaine said. “It’s just amazing to see the next generations. We see that every day with our refugees.”
“This is my passion, working with people from other countries,” she said Friday. “I lived in China for a while; I saw the brutalities of the Tibetans who lived there. It opened my eyes to the humanitarian efforts that needed to be done.”
“I call my team my little United Nations here,” Fontaine said, noting World Relief staff here speak over 19 languages. “A majority of my team are former refugees or first-generation Americans. It’s just beautiful, it’s humbling, and we’re actually making a difference in the world.
“I walk through the doors of World Relief every day, it’s something new,” she said. “We are welcoming the stranger; we are helping those that just need a hug for one day. Maybe they need immigration legal services; maybe they need culturally appropriate food. Everyone has a different path in life.”
“It’s just beautiful to be able to help those that are in need,” Fontaine said. “Remember that our forefathers and ancestors were immigrants that came to this country for a better life. That’s what our immigrants want; people start over from scratch.”
The WRQC staff has grown tremendously in the past few years, from about a dozen to 32 employees today. Their offices are at 1852 16th St., Moline, and phone is 309-764-2279.
“I have an amazingly diverse team,” she said, noting they include people from Congo, Myanmar, Mexico, Serbia, India, and other countries. Since 1999, WRQC has served over 3,000 refugees, immigrants, and secondary migrants in Rock Island County, and it also does resettlement in the Iowa QC.
Fontaine also just found out that WRQC will get a $750,000 federal grant from the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, for refugee career training.
To donate, or for more information, visit the WRQC website.