Our Charity of the Month for December is RefugeeOne, an organization that creates opportunities for refugees fleeing war, terror, and persecution to build new lives of safety, dignity and self-reliance.  We found out about their important work through one of our important customers (they’re all important!!).  Sarah Holtschlag works at RefugeeOne and came by our office/warehouse one day where she delighted us with stories of Mata connections.  We’ll let her retell them in her own words.

MT: Can you tell the story of how you met your roommates and the Mata connection?

Sarah:  I met my roommates through an email forward about this wonderful house. (You should see this place!  It’s just a few blocks from the Mata Traders warehouse.)  I went to the interview and I was wearing a Mata dress and they noticed right away because they also wear Mata Traders.  The rest of the interview was mostly about Mata Traders, oh yeah, and also what hours we keep, the way the house runs, etc.  I moved in a week later.

The house has an amazing garden (compliments of our landlady who lives in the coach house behind), none of the walls are the same color and the rooms are filled with found furniture and odd conversation pieces.  The house serves as a writing space, a music practice space, and an art studio.  Sondra Morin is a poet:, and Corinne Mucha is a teaching artist:

We also have a rascally dog, Harvey.  We love hanging out in the kitchen and swapping green smoothie recipes, drinking wine and eating cheese, gossiping, and writing songs that are only sung once.

My roommate and I were just having a Mata Traders showdown in our kitchen this morning.  We get dressed at the same time and we use the same full length mirror.  She teaches at the Old Town School and is wearing a Mata top today.  I’m doing my thing at RefugeeOne, wearing the Forget Me Not dress.  We joked that Mata sorta sounded like Prada, and if we were rich girls, our conversation would be totally different.

MT: When you came to visit us at the warehouse, what was the occasion?

Sarah:  I wear Mata Traders dresses all the time and one of my thoughtful friends gifted me the Oak Park dress, which I had just picked up at the Galleria in Andersonville a week prior.  I exchanged it for the Forget Me Not (crème).  I was so happy to meet the staff at the warehouse!

MT: Can you tell us about your work at RefugeeOne?

Sarah:  I work at RefugeeOne as an employment counselor.  Refugees come from places like Burma, Eritrea, Iraq, and Congo.  They are greeted at the airport and brought to a furnished apartment where a warm, culturally-appropriate meal is waiting for them.  Our goal is to help them become self-sufficient, and that means – most critically – to find a job.  I meet with the refugees to learn about their skills and previous work experience, make a resume for them, and teach them about the American workforce through interview skills and filling out applications.  I work with a team of people who find jobs around the city and we do our best to find matches between employers and refugees. The refugees are an amazing group of people who have an outstanding work ethic, driven by the desire to have a good life for their families in Chicago.

MT: We heard you play the saw.  Are you in a band?  Where do you play and do you have any shows coming up?

Sarah:  I play the singing saw and have a band called Sarah Holtschlag & the Crosscuts: We play all over Chicago!  I write most of the songs and my band members are the nicest and most talented guys I’ve ever worked with.

RefugeeOne is our charity of the month for December 2012.  Use the code Ref1 on matatraders.comfor 10% off your order and 10% donated to RefugeeOne.