Gretchen Mead owns a bungalow-style home in Shorewood that she shares with her two children, ages 7 and 9. Occasionally, she rents out two extra bedrooms to travelers through Air B&B.
"I enjoy interacting with people from around the world and I think itâ€™s good for my children. I want them to be prepared for sharing in the future, whether itâ€™s a dorm room or an apartment or other resources," says Mead. "Plus, having guests makes me clean my house more often."
Earlier this week, after looking at tragic photos of Syrian refugee children on Facebook, Mead decided she was going to do something to help. She posted this to Facebook:
"Iâ€™m considering inviting a Syrian Family to live with my family. I am considered lower middle income, but I have two extra bedrooms, more clothes than I can shove in my drawers, a pantry stashed full of amazing food and enough expendable income that I bought tickets for my entire family to fly to the Grand Canyon for Thanksgiving. I have enough. My kids have enough. If they don't attend summer camp this year, they still have enough. Everyone in my community has enough. If Iâ€™m honest with my deepest soul, I can't find a compelling reason why I shouldn't bring a family in need to live with my family."
Almost 400 people liked this post and Mead received a barrage of texts and messages from people who supported her effort and / or offered to host refugees as well. Within an hour, Mead scheduled a meeting for people open to sharing their home with Syrian refugees.
Mead is uncertain how the passing of yesterdayâ€™s bill in the U.S. House of Representatives might affect her plans. The bill prohibits Syrian and Iraqi refugees admission to the United States without a background check and security clearance from the FBI director, the Homeland Security secretary and the director of National Intelligence.
Mead, who is the executive director of the Victory Gardens Initiative, says she does not identify as a conservative or a liberal, nor is she anti-military. Her father retired from the armed forces at the age of 60 after serving in three conflicts.
"This is not a political response, it is a humanitarian effort," says Mead. "As a mother, as a human, I cannot turn my back. And I have two extra bedrooms."
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