Citizenship Day 02

Two-year-old Alexander Gernes waves American flags as he and his mother, Marleny Gernes, attend Project FINE’s Citizenship Day celebration in 2016.

Naturalized citizens will be honored and welcomed into the community at noon Monday, Sept. 16, with the seventh annual Citizenship Day celebration at Central Lutheran Church in Winona.

The event will recognize those who received their citizenship this year, along with all who are naturalized in the community.

Executive Director Fatima Said said the event is to help naturalized citizens “feel welcome and celebrate a big milestone.”

She said the celebration Monday will help those honored “feel like they belong” in the Winona community and area.

Fatima Said mug


Said is a naturalized citizen herself, having been a refugee from Bosnia. She said she understands the joy of being a new citizen and the major accomplishment that these members of the community are experiencing, one that will be recognized during the celebration.

An All-American meal will start the celebration at noon.

After the meal, there will be a short program and the honoring and celebration of the new citizens. Elected officials and other recognizable people in the community are expected to attend.

New citizens will have the chance to register to vote during the celebration, along with being able to learn more about the polling places near their homes.

The celebration is open to the public and free, but those interested in attending are asked to RSVP with Project FINE by calling 507-452-4100.

The celebration is a part of this year’s Welcoming Week.

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“Welcoming Week is an annual celebration of the contributions of immigrants and refugees and the role communities play to foster greater welcome for everyone,” according to Project FINE’s website.

Project FINE, which stands for Focus on Integrating Newcomers through Education, is an organization developed to help “newcomers integrate into the community.” The organization has been working in Winona County, along with the surrounding area, since 2009.

According to the organization, it “(provides) foreign language interpreters and translators as well as opportunities for education, information, referral and empowerment for immigrants and refugees.”

Welcoming Week 2019 is set to be full of events in Winona and St. Charles.

St. Charles’ Mayor John Schaber kicked off the week Tuesday with the declaration that Sept. 13 through Sept. 22 will be Welcoming Week.

Welcoming on Wednesday will be a free event from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, that will feature live music, bounce houses and activities. Vendors will be present selling crafts and homemade goods. The event will be located in St Charles’ City Hall Park, 830 Whitewater Ave.

The first celebration in Winona for the week will be Rhythm at the River from 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday at Levee Park. The event will include live music by Golpe Tierra and the La Crosse Jazz Orchestra and dance lessons. There will be a special performance and activities for all ages. WINONArts, River City Ballroom Dancers, East Side Productions and the Boathouse are co-hosting the event.

On Monday, Sept. 16, during the 6:30 p.m. Winona city council meeting, Mayor Mark Peterson will also declare Sept. 13 through Sept. 22 as Welcoming Week.

Film Screening and Community Conversation: New Immigrant and Refugee Visions will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, at the Winona County History Center. Four short films will be shown with discussion following. Frozen River Film Festival is co-hosting.

On Friday, Sept. 20, the Winona Family YMCA will welcome the community into its facilities by offering a day free of charge.

For more information about Project FINE and Welcoming Week, visit www.projectfine.org.

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