Celebrating 20 Years

Welcoming the Stranger is 20 years old! On February 1, 1999, our founder, Sturgis Poorman, began an ESL class to support immigrants in Lower Bucks County. He felt a calling to help welcome the stranger in a new land. The one class quickly grew into several classes that encompassed ESL (English as a Second Language), Computer Skills, and Citizenship Preparation. 


What began as a program of academic classes quickly developed into much more than that: they became a global community of people who supported and learned from one another. Sturgis passed away this past fall, but his words live on. In 2009, he wrote, “Classes have become places where helpers and students help each other and learn from each other but also where friendships develop. Not just native born Americans helping immigrants but immigrants helping each other, too. We are all givers and all receivers.” 

Today, twenty years later, over 4,000 different people from 104 different countries have been served by Welcoming the Stranger.  Fifteen to twenty classes are offered each term, in about ten different neighborhoods throughout Bucks, Montgomery, and Hunterdon Counties. People have learned the skills they need to survive in a new land, to become self sufficient, and to become productive members of their communities. Beyond teaching academic and survival English skills, Welcoming the Stranger has created a family that lives up to it’s namesake, the Biblical passage Matthew 25:35, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Our student Elda from Albania says, “Ilike to come at ESL class, because is a positive environment, with good people, wealthy with human dignity, who help others with kindness and generosity. The other reason is that it helps practice English.”

Immigrants often tell us that they feel stunted and frustrated when they first come to the country; after all, they are competent, intelligent people who just do not know the language or culture yet. Learn about the journey of one of our students, Patricia, who began with Welcoming the Stranger as a student, helped us a volunteer, and is now our part time Administrative Assistant, fielding phone calls and emails from dozens of students each week and helping us to build capacity as our student enrollment continues to dramatically increase. 


We challenge you! 

Want to have even more of an impact? Join our 20/20 Fundraising team!  

In honor of our 20thbirthday, we challenge 20 of you (more are welcome!) to ask 20 of your friends for “microdonations” for Welcoming the Stranger through the month of February!  

Your goal: 

We are seeking 20 people to sign up to each ask 20 of your friends to donate a microdonation (a small amount) to benefit WTS. 

We understand that not everyone is able to afford a large donation, but many people donating $5, $10, or $20 at a time can make a huge impact. 

If 20 of your friends donate at least $10 each, you would raise $200 (20x10=200). 

If all 20 of us can each raise $200, then that equals $4,000, which covers the cost of one class for half a term! This initiative also spreads the word about our work to a greater audience, reaching those who may need our services as well as those who may want to support us. Can you help us make new friends for our 20thbirthday? 

But I’m not a fundraiser, you might think! How do I go about participating in this challenge? There are several simple ways you can participate. You can make a Facebook fundraiser (we will send you instructions), or you can send an email out to your friends (we will send you a template). 

If you would like to participate in this challenge, or are curious about learning more, please sign up HERE:


Check back to this page throughout the month of February (and the rest of the year!) for more memories, features, and ways to get involved in our birthday celebration!