History

The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians began in 1998 as the Philadelphia Area Immigration Resource Center (PAIRC), which initially focused on providing services and support to Philadelphia’s Irish immigrant community.

Our Story

In fall 2001, PAIRC conducted a comprehensive study to assess the landscape of the Philadelphia area’s immigrant service providers. This study found that the services offered to immigrants were extensive and filled a significant need. At the same time, however, these services were fragmented and hard to access. In fact, in an informal survey of these organizations, all discussed the need for a centralized information source.

Anne O’Callaghan, herself an Irish immigrant who has been in the Philadelphia area for three decades, observed that the situation had not changed much since her arrival. Change was the challenge.

In response, she founded the Welcoming Center to serve as a centralized resource and employment center for immigrants in Philadelphia. The Welcoming Center opened in 2003, and Anne served as its president and CEO for the next nine years.

Since opening, the Welcoming Center has worked tirelessly to help new Americans in this region, both through direct services and by raising awareness among the business and political communities about the positive impact that immigrants have on our economy. One of the Welcoming Center’s key roles has been to help create strategic relationships across a broad-based coalition of ethnic community-based organizations, immigrant service providers, and corporate, government, union, and foundation leaders in the greater Philadelphia region; and the promotion of immigrants and immigration as assets to regional economic development.

KEY ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • Creating a job placement service which to date has placed over 1,100 work-authorized immigrants in a variety of legitimate, payroll jobs at a decent wage
  • Placing jobseekers in jobs with more than 250 different companies in high-demand industries including healthcare, warehouse, manufacturing, hospitality, and retail
  • Providing good candidates repeatedly to companies -- over 65 percent of our employers turn to us repeatedly to hire additional candidates
  • Giving academic and social support to more than 700 immigrant and native-born students during the six years that our Project Bridging Cultures operated at South Philadelphia High School
  • Providing more than 200 entrepreneurs each year with information and resources about municipal regulations and licensing, technical assistance on business start-ups, and practical advice on crime and safety issues
  • Providing free legal consultations to over 200 immigrants each year
  • Partnering with a number of organizations to raise awareness of the importance of immigration as it relates to economic development
  • Offering seminars that feature nationally recognized demographers and experts on recent trends on immigration and the implications of immigration on our region.
  • Creating dozens of detailed publications and reports about immigration, workforce development, and business development

And, of course, the accomplishment of which we are most proud: Providing information, referral and consultation services to more than 9,000 individuals from over 140 nations around the world.