A plain white moving van motoring up the road Tuesday signaled that a Somali family of nine might actually find its way to Kansas City, despite travel restrictions signed Jan. 27 by President Donald Trump.
Inside the truck: new mattresses. Nine. And seven box springs. One bunk rack and bed frames for all.
Ascending 20 concrete steps to the front porch, nearly a dozen helpers formed a mid-morning parade, each hoisting parts of twin beds.
Volunteers inside the four-bedroom house on Brighton Avenue in Kansas City’s Northeast area had already spread out a donated rug, washed donated dishes, scrubbed the bathroom and slid together a sectional couch.
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As refugee supporters from Country Club Christian Church, their mission was to make the bungalow as spotless and homey as it could be for the possible arrival this week of a mother with eight children.
“It’s still a bit up in the air, but I would rather be optimistic” and have the house ready, said Nancy Lear, one of five church volunteers sprucing it up on Tuesday.
Not all details had been sealed on the plan to resettle the Somali family, which has spent several years in a Kenyan refugee camp. But the arrival of furniture, sundries, eating utensils, blankets and pillows suggested their transfer to Kansas City was more likely to happen than not.
Late Monday the family’s local sponsor, Della Lamb Community Services, paid a deposit on the house thought perfect for a large immigrant family — or else lose it.
Agency case workers were told to hit Wal-Mart. They knew what to grab — shampoo and deodorant and bedding, dishwashing liquid, everyday things.
But even 24 hours later, Della Lamb couldn’t say for sure whether the family was to make it here. Lawyers and appellate judges in California on Tuesday continued to weigh the legality of Trump’s temporary travel ban on refugees and citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Somalia.
“We still hope and pray they’re going to arrive,” said the agency’s executive director, Judy McGonigle Akers. “Everything is so volatile with this executive order.”
On Monday, an organization that works with the U.S. State Department to provide reception and placement services for incoming refugees had assured Della Lamb the family was cleared for travel. Later, Della Lamb was warned by the organization, “we wouldn’t be surprised if something stopped them midstream,” Akers said.
With information seemingly changing by the hour, Della Lamb haulers and volunteers wasted no time preparing the 1,300-square-foot house for occupancy.
Andrew Vandendaele, who toggles between computer work at the agency and moving furniture, set up a mahogany dining table 8 feet long, with 10 chairs.
“They’re going to need every foot of this table,” he said of the refugees, who include four girls and four boys. “You wonder when was the last time they sat as a family and ate.”
Nancy Ralston of Country Club Christian raked front-yard leaves into paper bags. Fellow volunteer Susan Edwards took on the bathroom; Jackie Cunningham sprayed and wiped down a refrigerator with her right arm. (The left needed surgery in the summer when Cunningham tripped and shattered her elbow preparing another refugee house.)
In three hours the place was ready to be lived in. Just no family yet to fill it.
If and when the Somalis arrive, they’ll find a jar brought in by volunteer Jeanne Seldner filled with fresh-cut flowers.