Palo Alto Weekly
September 10, 2019
By Cierra Bailey

Welcome Week offers nearly two dozen cultural events over span of 10 days

History tours and a cultural potluck are among the events lined up for Palo Alto's second annual Welcome Week kicking off this Thursday, which seeks to honor the city's commitment to diversity and recognize the contributions of immigrants to the community.

      Community members hold nametags at a Palo Alto Welcome Week
      event, which aims to "bring together all residents in a spirit of unity,"
      according to a statement by the Palo Alto Family YMCA.
      Photo courtesy Y-USA.

The 10-day celebration is a nationwide event founded in 2009 by Georgia-based nonprofit Welcoming America. It includes daily activities that aim to "bring together all residents in a spirit of unity," according to a statement by the Palo Alto Family YMCA, one of the community partners organizing local events. 

"At Palo Alto Family YMCA, we believe Palo Alto is stronger when everyone in the community feels welcome and we can all work together for the common good," Executive Director Lee Pfab said in the statement, adding that the organization is "proud" to be a part of the local and national Welcome Week. 

"It is a time to celebrate the shared values that unite us as neighbors, parents and colleagues, and to make our town more welcoming to newcomers and to everyone who calls our community home," Pfab said. 

Along with the YMCA, Avenidas, Kafenia Peace Collective, the city of Palo Alto, the city's Human Relations Commission, Palo Alto Adult School, Palo Alto City Library and the Palo Alto History Museum are among the organizations hosting Welcome Week festivities. 

       Children listen to a story at the YMCA Kids Club.
       Through storytime sessions, the organizers behind
       Palo Alto Welcome Week hope to educate young
       children about other cultures.
       Photo courtesy Palo Alto Family YMCA. 

With nearly two dozen events lined up, the celebration opens this Thursday with a Moon Festival Cultural Diversity launch party, hosted by Avenidas at Cubberley Community Center. The event features several activities such as cultural arts and crafts, live performances, a raffle and storytelling, according to the Welcome Week website.

Other events include self-guided storytelling walking tours through the city, hosted by the YMCA, Palo Alto History Museum and the Human Relations Commission. During the 2-mile-long tour, participants can visit the homes, businesses and community organizations of immigrants who helped shape the city's history and culture, like community leader Queene Amirian, muralist Victor Arnautoff, education advocate Anna Zschokke, former Palo Alto Mayor Sid Espinosa, artist Irene Ruth Mock Wong and tech innovators Bill Hewlett and David Packard. 

Family storytime sessions at the YMCA and Palo Alto libraries also aim to educate young children about other cultures, teaching them to accept and embrace diversity from an early age. 

On Sept. 21, Welcome Week wraps up with a potluck and storytelling lounge at Mitchell Park Community Center, where guests are invited to bring cultural dishes and exchange recipes with one another while sharing personal histories and traditions. 

Last year, Palo Alto Welcome Week brought out 1,200 participants, which the YMCA hopes to double this year with the expansion of its partnerships and offerings. 

The Welcome Week celebration "is a way of opening our arms as a community to really bring together newcomers and longtime residents of Palo Alto to help foster a sense of community and really help highlight the importance of unity," said Lily Stellmon, community engagement manager for the Palo Alto Family YMCA.

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