Amani Family Services is moving into a new building to better serve immigrants and refugees

Executive Director Irene Paxia and Finance Director Mandeep KaurAmani Family Services has grown since its inception from a handful of staff to a team of more than 20 full-time employees. Now it’s growing in terms of physical space—a move that’s a win for its clients and the Fort Wayne community at large. 

Amani, which translates to “peace” in the Kiswahili language, is a private nonprofit organization serving more than 1,500 families and individuals from around the world who have made Allen County their home. It’s one of the largest nonprofit agencies serving immigrants and refugees in the area. Its work is rooted in four programs, which promote safety, encourage personal growth, and foster a spirit of belonging in northeast Indiana—all carried out by about 40 multilingual staff members and contractors.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an unprecedented 70.8 million people around the world have been forced from their homes. Among them are nearly 25.9 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. These statistics underline the need for an agency like Amani in Fort Wayne.

Executive Director Irene Paxia is an immigrant herself and understands some of the struggles families go through in navigating the intricacies of a new homeland. She came to Indiana by way of Italy and worked at the Northeast Indiana office of the American Red Cross. 

“I became the director of a program that was helping immigrants assimilate,” she says. “So I learned a lot about the community by just seeking the answers and connecting with people.”

Amani staff serve clients of all ages and backgrounds.

That innate desire and curiosity propelled Paxia's nonprofit career. She later took a job with the City of Fort Wayne's Community Development program, which provided another outlet for her to help her neighbors. 

In 2015, she was named Executive Director of what was then called Crime Victim Care, now Amani Family Services. Under her leadership in 2016, the organization rebranded and took on its current name.

“We are the same people with the same passion, but we’ve improved on the way in which we tell the story,” she explains.

Amani Family Services envisions immigrant and refugee families and the community working together to build a secure, vibrant, and cohesive society.

The building, located off North Clinton Street, was donated by Parkview Health. Amani moved into the space earlier this month, and the excitement is still palpable for Paxia. In her mind, the new space a physical representation of the organization's public-facing work. 

“Right now, we're getting to the point where we know where we're going,” Paxia says. “This building is a launchpad for us. Now we’re being approached by the community and having incredible communications and conversations with people that are now excited to do more work with us.” 

For example, a company donated the office furniture and an interior designer freshened up the space. 

Paxia says while the building represents a milestone for the organization, it has and always will be about the clients.

"You're always going to be welcome here, no matter how many years you have been here, no matter your immigration status, whether you're an immigrant or refugee, or a student,” she says. “We will provide services to everybody and not allow for gaps to happen. So we're a welcoming community, and this building shows it. We're not just saying it."

Attend Amani's Ribbon Cutting/Open House

The event will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and will include international snacks, music, and information about Amani's future.

Date: Wednesday, Oct. 2

Time: 12-4 pm

Where: 5104 N. Clinton St., Fort Wayne

Read more articles by Lauren Caggiano.

Lauren Caggiano is a Fort Wayne-based writer. A 2007 graduate of the University of Dayton, she returned to Northeast Indiana to pursue a career. In the past 12 years she has worked in journalism, public relations, marketing, and digital media. She currently writes for several local, regional, and national publications.
Signup for Email Alerts