Social Services for the Arab Community (SSFAC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that immigrants from Arab nations have everything they need to achieve self-sufficiency and thrive. From translation services to employment services to immigration legal services, SSFAC provides a wealth of resources to help immigrants transition to their new lives in America.

The Ohio Access to Justice Foundation supports SSFAC through funding its Immigration Legal Services program, also known as Ahlan Was Sahlan, which means ‘welcome’ in Arabic. Through this program, members of the Arab community can access legal assistance with a wide array of legal matters, including obtaining visas, family reunification, employment, and pathways to U.S. citizenship.

Lona Lakatos, the co-founder of SSFAC, felt a special calling to work with the Arab community after moving with her family to Toledo from Dearborn, Michigan. Since she and her husband, Shane, were both fluent in Arabic, they began aiding Arabs they would encounter in the community through word-of-mouth.

“We would be talking to people in Arabic, which would lead them to wonder if we could help them with different things, like translating papers they received in the mail because they spoke no English and didn’t understand,” Lakatos said.

As the community needs became more complex, Lakatos and her husband saw an opportunity to serve their community in a greater capacity. This led to establishing SSFAC under the umbrella of a local nonprofit organization. As SSFAC grew, it officially became a separate nonprofit entity in 2013.

“We saw that there wasn’t anything for the Arab community in Toledo and that there weren’t any other organizations that specialized in serving this population,” she said. “So [my husband and I] knew we had to do this.”

In addition to immigration legal services, SSFAC has several departments and services dedicated to the unique needs of the Arab immigrant community, some of which include the Child and Welfare Services program, the Educational Services program, and the Emergency Resource Services program.

Lakatos knows firsthand what it’s like to immigrate to a new country. She first arrived in the United States from Jordan with her family when she was a young girl. In addition to Lakatos, SSFAC has an all-immigrant staff, which uniquely equips the organization to assist and empathize with its clients.

“I know our clients’ struggles and how they felt when they first arrived here,” she said. “So, when they see us, and we start speaking with them— it’s like a burden just falls off their shoulders. They’re like, ‘Somebody can understand me! Great. Now I can tell you my story.’”

The Foundation funds specialty legal aids like SSFAC to address the unique civil legal needs of specific populations. Learn more about specialty legal aids.