Our Vision: Refugees Experiencing Abundant Life in Flourishing Communities



We invest in relationships with those we serve and those with whom we serve. We love one another through relationship as God loves us. We seek to model Christ’s love in these relationships and the work that we do in the community.


We seek to treat all people – as bearers of the image of God – with dignity and worth. Everyone has something to give and to learn from one another.


We prioritize initiatives which empower individuals and their families and thus allow for greater self-sufficiency. We provide environments where people are free and able to contribute not only to their own well-being, but also to the well-being of their families, neighbors and communities.


We accomplish our mission through programmatic excellence, continual improvement by staff and partners, and effective delivery of our resources that meet the actual needs of our community. Stewarding well the resources God provides is a hallmark of Friends of Refugees.

Abundant Life 

We experience abundant life when we are in relationship with God and others, where our inherent dignity and capacity is acknowledged, and we are participating in the development of a flourishing community.

We work across all faiths, ethnicities, social classes and backgrounds, and there is no faith requirement in order to receive our services or serve alongside us.


Every year, thousands of refugees are formally welcomed to the United States, carrying dreams of a better life and the desire to escape political, religious, and ethnic persecution–or the violence of war within their home country. In the early 1990s, refugees began to be resettled in the community of Clarkston, GA, a small town located near metro Atlanta. During this time, the population of Clarkston grew as refugee families from more than 150 different ethnic groups found a supportive urban environment for development and growth. Since this process began, more than 60,000 refugees have begun their journeys as New Americans in this area. With so many ethnic groups represented within and around the city, Clarkston has been called “the most diverse square mile in America” by the New York Times Magazine.

As the refugee population in Clarkston grew, the need for specialized human support service organizations became apparent. Friends of Refugees (FOR) was founded in 1995 for this purpose by Pat Maddox, a resident of Clarkston. Pat grew up in Clarkston when many of the streets were still dirt and when the pharmacy and grocery store were owned by family friends. She left Clarkston to attend nursing school in Florida, where she later married.

In December of 1995, Pat relocated back to Clarkston. One morning while attending church, she saw a notice in a newsletter asking for volunteers to help meet the needs of some newly arrived refugee families. Pat’s connection with these families made a lasting impression on her heart that led her into the world of refugees and has helped drive the work of FOR. Pat’s visionary answer to God’s call on her life paved the way to what FOR would become. 

In 2005, Friends of Refugees became an official 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is “to empower refugees through opportunities that provide for their well-being, education and employment.” Our programs help New Americans seize opportunities while bringing them into relationships that will help them flourish. Today, in 2022, Friends of Refugees provides programs that teach hundreds of moms and kids English together, welcome dozens of babies born to healthy moms, fill family kitchen tables with fresh produce from garden plots, help launch new businesses, and strengthen existing entrepreneurs.

What is a Christian Community Development Organization?

As a member of the CCDA, Friends of Refugees seeks to deploy targeted theories of change in each program that are ultimately anchored in the 8 key principles developed over the last 40 years by practitioners who have built upon John Perkin’s original “three R’s” of Relocation, Reconciliation and Redistribution to building flourishing communities.

These are the eight Key Principles of Christian Community Development:

REDISTRIBUTION – Just Distribution of Resources

RELOCATION – Living Among the People


LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT: Restoring the Glue of a Stable Community

EMPOWERMENT: Paths that Lead to Agency and Dignity

WHOLISTIC APPROACH: All Parts of Life and Community Are Essential

CHURCH-BASED: Churches Have a Critical Role To Play

LISTENING TO THE COMMUNITY: Asset-based Around Felt Needs

Learn More at www.ccda.org