Community members come together over pancakes to support Afghan family finding housing

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
Members of the community came out to enjoy a dinner of pancakes and bacon on March 1, Fat Tuesday.

Community members came together March 1 to help a family find housing in classic Fat Tuesday fashion: with pancakes and syrup. 

The 13 member family of Afghan evacuees, fleeing the Taliban takeover, came to Black Mountain through the help of Catholic Charities, an organization based in Charlotte. 

The identities of the family have been kept anonymous for safety reasons. According to Liz Chandler, the communications director for Catholic Charities, even in Black Mountain the family could be targeted. 

"We've actually heard of examples where so-and so's brother is in the news so they go after his family in Afghanistan," Chandler said in January. "We're just trying to protect as best we can." 

More:Afghan evacuees resettling in Black Mountain, more families still to come

Held at Black Mountain Presbyterian Church, a partnership of local community organizations came together for a breakfast-for-dinner fundraiser to raise money for housing the Afghan family. 

According to church staff, the dinner and following event at White Horse Black Mountain raised more than $5,000. 

The Black Mountain Rotary Club did the cooking for the pancake dinner benefit at the Presbyterian Church on March 1.

"We need to raise money for housing," said David Carter Florence, from Black Mountain Presbyterian. "Housing is so expensive and even hard to just get into rentals that will be consistent and sustainable."

Carter Florence, an associate pastor at Black Mountain Presbyterian, said the dinner-style benefit was started during the pandemic as a way to connect. Although Presbyterians don't typically engage in Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, according to Carter Florence, he said the tradition of giving extends to the whole community. 

Black Mountain Presbyterian partnered with St. James Episcopal and Catholic Charities to support the local Afghan family since their arrival. The family, made up of immediate and extended family members, has been working on resettlement in Black Mountain. 

"We need to serve and hang in there while they adjust," Carter Florence said. "Most of them have had war their whole life."

Community members got into the Mardi Gras spirit on March 1, Fat Tuesday, at the Black Mountain Presbyterian Church's pancake dinner benefit.

According to Carter Florence, housing has been provided for the family by Christmount Christian Assembly since their arrival in December. 

Collaborating with Catholic Charities, Rob Morris, the executive director at Christmount, said the organization has been providing basic housing needs for the family. 

"It's been tremendous for us," Morris said. "We're just happy to participate." 

While Chistmount has no immediate plans for more permanent housing, Morris said he heard Catholic Charities has the goal of getting the family situated in March. 

Although Black Mountain Presbyterian staff don't know where the family will ultimately live, the need for funds to find housing remains important. Carter Florence said while the immediate need focuses on the Afghan family, he sees the benefit as a starting point for continued community efforts. 

"We know housing is just a big issue," Carter Florence said. "We're seeing this as a developing service ministry to work towards more sustainable housing for all people." 

The fundraiser was held in partnership among the Presbyterian Church, St. James Episcopal, the Black Mountain Rotary Club and White Horse. 

The benefit dinner on March 1 offered sit down and to-go options with prepared boxes of pancakes and bacon.

With drive-thru and sit down options, participants of the dinner were encouraged to also attend a benefit concert at White Horse immediately after. 

"It's a community. We all live in it," said Bob Hinkle, the owner and operator of White Horse. "We all owe each other something in the greater sense of the word."

Hinkle said he had been thinking of ways to help support the family of evacuees when he was approached by the Presbyterian Church. 

"We've been building good relationships with White Horse Black Mountain," Carter Florence said. "(Hinkle) has been super, wanting to engage community in connecting through music."

Community support extends beyond housing, according to church staff. Helping put the children through school, finding jobs for the adults, offering rides to the Islamic Center of Asheville and providing English classes for the whole family have been focal points for the church staff. 

"We're not trying to convert them to Christianity or anything," Carter Florence said. "It's important to respect who they are." 

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or emaille@blackmountainnews.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.