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Re: A Story of Citizenship

January 4, 2016


This is really such a beautiful story – it speaks not only to America’s values around welcoming refugees, but also to the notion that all Americans can make a profound impact on the lives of those around them. I shared it in the SS (Senior Staff) briefing today.


Thanks for all your family does, and happy New Year.


Asher Mayerson  - - The White House / Director  -- Office of Public Engagement

Mike Tittle

trees, donated by Eileen Casey

The Arete Fund is pleased to partner with World Relief in providing incoming refugees from conflict zones in the Middle East with a welcome home at Ta Mike’s Friendship House in Modesto, California.  As we knock down the fence that separates the house from the small orchard adjacent to it, we do so in the hope that a portion of the orchard will be useful as a garden for those refugees who will reside there and the orchard will be planted with more trees that will stand for years to come in memory of those refugees whose lives have been lost in their flight to freedom.  Two apricot 

and the late Steve Keating, will be among the first to stand in memory of the young Syrian refugees Aylan Kurdi, age three and his brother Ghalib, age five, who drowned during an attempted crossing by sea.  Their deaths occasioned the European community and the world about the need for gestures great and very, very small that when taken collectively, defy those whose pride in their religious intolerance gives insult to our humanity. 

The Friendship House belonged to my brother Michael DeLoach Tittle, now deceased. Mike Tittle was an intellectually curious and passionately open-minded man who experienced a dawn in the desert of Saudi Arabia in his early twenties.  He ever after explored the terrain of religious belief with respect for others and a tolerance becoming in one who loved humanity with an uncompromising acceptance of the struggle to be human.  It was his wish during his lifetime to make this little house that opened onto a small orchard available to “family” when they came to visit.

“Family” is coming!!

World Relief Modesto is a nonprofit agency providing services to refugees in the community.  World Relief’s mission is to serve vulnerable populations in and through partnership with local churches, agencies and the community-at-large. Their programs provide financial, cultural and spiritual support to refugees - victims of war and persecution around the world — who are being placed in Stanislaus County, California. (

To date, Ta Mike’s Friendship House has hosted 51 refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. We hope to continue our partnership with World Relief for the foreseeable future. A special thanks to those have helped to lend a hand to our efforts, namely Lenore Hash who helps to manage the Friendship House; her mother who made a colorful, handmade caftan for the bedroom;  Leon Kunke for the generous use of his truck on the long hauls to deliver furniture;

as well as Sandra Pursell for her willingness to gather household utensils from her own cupboard, and to Eileen Casey and Steve Keating who dropped by with trees for Mike’s orchard that were grown from seedlings.

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