Karen S. Baker

Honored by:Deborah J. Klagge
Brick location:B:23  map

Karen Sue Baker was born and raised in Iowa, spending most of her life in Sioux City. It is there that she became involved in the Lutheran Committee for Refugee Resettlement, Lutheran Social Services of Iowa, and the Lutheran Immigration and Resettlement Services based in New York City. Through these agencies, Karen has thus far been responsible for relocating one hundred eighteen persons (twenty-nine families) from Vietnam, Laos, Hungary, Cambodia, Ethiopia, and Poland.

Each refugee has an amazing story to tell of the horrific living conditions experienced prior to relocating in Sioux City, Iowa. These tragic stories include details of religious and political persecution, exclusion from the mainstream culture, poor economic and living conditions, imprisonment, terrorism, and more. Unfortunately, these people had to rely on luck and spend every penny they earned just to apply for refuge in the United States.

It takes people like Karen Baker to make refugees' dreams come true. She surveys individuals and families whose work skills and educational backgrounds are compatible with Sioux City's economic opportunities. When individuals and families are selected, Karen works to arrange flight schedules, living quarters and provisions, English tutors, volunteer jobs, financial assistance, and anything else needed to aid in the adjustment to new surroundings.

Her work does not stop there. She continues to work with everyone until they are able to succeed on their own. This process most often results in lifelong friendships. For her achievements in making new lives for refugees, Karen received the "State of Iowa Governor's Volunteer Award" in 1985 and the "Women of Excellence" award in 1989. She continues to serve on the Human Rights Commission and the Siouxland Refugee and Immigrant Network Committee. Whatever the future has in store for Karen, you can be sure it will include a lifelong dedication to improving the lives of others. 5/10/94