Who We Are

Open Doors for Refugees (ODFR) is a volunteer-driven organization founded in 2016 and based in Madison, Wisconsin whose mission is to help refugees make a home in the Madison area. We work closely with Jewish Social Services (the sole official refugee resettlement agency in Madison) but we are not a faith-based organization and are not affiliated with any faith-based organization.

Officially we are a project of, and obtain 501(c)(3) status through, our fiscal sponsor, the Center for Community Stewardship. Our Leadership Council provides overall leadership, direction, and policy decision-making for ODFR.


Open Doors for Refugees welcomes refugees to the Madison area by helping them make a home, celebrating their cultures and contributions, and accelerating their progress towards self-reliance and community involvement.


Open Doors for Refugees is guided by the following values:

Act with Compassion, Understanding, and Respect: We strive to understand and respect refugees’ values, customs, and decisions. We welcome, serve, and stand beside our new neighbors with compassion and without judgment of cultural, educational, political, social, and economic backgrounds.

Cultivate Community: We foster a welcoming community for refugees in the Madison area by raising awareness about the needs of refugees, highlighting the benefits that diversity brings to our community, and engaging the public in efforts to address the needs of refugees.

Promote Self-Sufficiency and Community Involvement: We support refugees to become self-sufficient members of the community by gaining new knowledge and skills, identifying opportunities to build self-confidence and self-reliance, and facilitating community connections and involvement. We encourage the sharing and celebration of customs and cultures.

Serve with Integrity: We recognize, as representatives of ODFR in the community, the need to carry out our roles and responsibilities with professionalism and integrity, and to respect all personal and organizational boundaries and sensitivities.

Seek Collaboration and Partnerships: We establish mutually beneficial partnerships with local organizations and agencies. We provide services that complement, rather than duplicate, what our partners and other organizations offer. We value and respect all volunteers and the roles, obligations, and autonomy of our partners.

Respect Confidentiality: We respect the privacy of refugees and are committed to maintaining the confidentiality of their personal information. We agree to adhere to the confidentiality requirements of our partner organizations and agencies.

Our Volunteers

A group of people at the grocery store buying home supplies.

We support new and recent arrivals in a variety of ways, largely through a network of volunteer teams.

Most notably, our Donations and Move-In teams collect donations of furniture and household items and use them to furnish and stock apartments for arriving refugees. We also have teams that provide TranslationTransportationESL, and Employment services.

Our Home Supply team provides basic (non-food) supplies to new arrivals every month for their first year here. We also have a very active Events team that hosts or co-hosts four major events annually, and in the last four years, has hosted or co-hosted about 20 one-of-a-kind public events.

Please see our Volunteer page for more information or to get involved.

Our Funding

We subsist largely on the generous donations of individuals and organizations, although in 2021 and 2022 we received three grants that have funded our Skill Building, W-2 and Car Grants program. If you’d like, you can make a tax deductible donation to us here, and thank you for your generosity.

Our Leadership Council

  • Alex Houghton
  • Erin Conrad
  • Hillary Johnson
  • Madeline Uraneck
  • Margaret Brauer
  • Meghan Gauger
  • Robert Chase
  • Robin Malicki
  • Sallie Anna
  • Sara Camacho
  • Timothy Pire

Our History

Open Doors began in the spring of 2016 as an offshoot of an event to raise awareness about the Syrian refugee crisis. At the end of the event, half the people stayed to talk about what we could do. Through a series of meetings and events that followed, we eventually morphed into Open Doors for Refugees with our current mission and focus. Since then, almost two thousand people have reached out to Open Doors, and several hundred have signed up to be on one or more of our teams. We invite you to become involved!