NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR) at Bethel College is working to spread a message of welcome west of the Mississippi.
In the last several weeks, signs that say “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in three languages (usually English, Spanish and Arabic) have been sprouting in yards along the East Coast, extending into Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. A few of them have shown up in Newton and North Newton as well.
Immanuel Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia, made the original sign, hand-painted and erected in the church’s front yard, then went on to develop the orange, green and black yard sign version and make the PDF available to anyone who wanted to produce them.
Enough signs appeared in the Washington, D.C., area that they caught the attention of local TV stations and then NPR, which took the story national on public radio.
KIPCOR staff decided to make their office, Kaufman House (located on the Bethel campus at 2515 College Ave. in North Newton), the place where anyone from south-central Kansas who wanted a welcome sign could pick one up.
The 24"x18" signs are available by donation (suggested $10 to cover printing) during KIPCOR’s office hours, generally 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 316-284-5217 for more information or with any questions.
KIPCOR will accept donations beyond the cost of the signs, which will go to support KIPCOR’s work in bridge-building and conflict resolution.
Sharon Kniss, KIPCOR director of education and training, noted in an e-mail to the Bethel College community: “In putting up signs, if you have questions or want support in neighborly skills or community building, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We build stronger communities together.”
She added that KIPCOR staff see making the signs available to the public is a way to both draw attention to KIPCOR’s presence and what it can offer in terms of peacebuilding skills and training, and to spread a message of welcome.
To learn more about the sign, see Immanuel Mennonite Church’s website.