City of Kirksville, other entities work to integrate Congolese families to NEMO

Monday, Kirksville City Council members learned of a new effort to help those individuals better acclimate to northeast Missouri. (KTVO File)

Since 2014, Kirksville has seen an influx of immigrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo or DRC.

They began settling in town via the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program through the United States Department of State.

Monday, Kirksville City Council members learned of a new effort to help those individuals better acclimate to northeast Missouri.

The new residents initially came to the area because of employment opportunities at Smithfield's Farmland Foods in Milan.

The population continued to grow as jobs became available at Kraft Heinz in Kirksville.

According to city documents, the most recent estimate from the Kirksville School District has the immigrant population number between 600 and 800 individuals.

In August 2017, city staffers saw a need to help with integration to the community.

As a result, the Kirksville Immigrant Community Coordination group was formed.

That ever-growing group is made up of entities like the City of Kirksville, Kirksville Police Department, Kirksville Fire Department, DRC immigrant community leaders, foreign-language professors from Truman State University, Kirksville School District, Kraft Heinz, Kirk-Tran, Northeast Regional Medical Center, Adair County Public Library, Ameren, Northeast Missouri Health Council, Adair County Health Department and others.

Kirksville Assistant City Manager Ashley Young says the idea is to host informal monthly open houses.

The open houses would focus on topics such as healthcare, public safety and landlord-tenant laws.

He says that the fire department also hopes to hold an event this spring that will share information on the equipment and what to do in the event of an emergency.

Young says some may question why the city is investing time and resources into this effort.

"First and foremost, love thy neighbor. And beyond that, we need to grow our economy and a key component of that is growing our workforce. You can't have larger corporations, you can't have industrial employers and more retail and commercial activity without here to work those jobs."

Young adds that the group will continue to move forward to help fully integrate the new residents to the Kirksville community.

Anyone with questions or concerns are encouraged to contact city staffers.

For more information on the Kirksville Immigrant Community Coordination group, click here.

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