Miradje Cakiqi tried to thank her benefactors Thursday morning, but she struggled with her English to express herself.
At around 9 a.m., Capt. Paul D’Agostino and other Rural/Metro Fire Department personnel arrived at the Cakiqis’ Tempe home and filled an empty spot in the living room with a Christmas tree lined with lights, $240 in Fry’s gift certificates and gift-wrapped cooking pans, toys, clothes and personal hygiene items.
"Police from over there, Serbia, no good. Police here too good," said Miradje, referring to the firefighters. "(They) bring us good Christmas."
Miradje, her husband, Hasan, and their seven children fled the former Yugoslavia and its ethnic cleansing in 1999. One daughter is still in Kosovo.
According to the state Department of Economic Security’s Arizona Refugee Resettlement Program, 40,283 refugees have been resettled in Arizona since 1975.
In fiscal year 2003, 1,205 were resettled here.
With an American flag displayed above their Kosovar banner, Miradje spoke briefly of family members killed before she, her husband and their children left their war-torn country. But the focus of the morning was the firefighters in their living room.
D’Agostino and his wife, Elle, asked the Cakiqis about their health, health insurance and their difficulties finding work.
Hasan, who has worked intermittently for construction companies and a modular furniture company, said he has back and chest problems and has been in and out of the hospital often.
They said they were told their 4-month-old daughter needs an operation, but they refused to authorize it because they didn’t understand what it was for.
Language has been an obstacle, they said.
"I submit application in hotel, in Fry’s, in everything. No work," Hasan Cakiqi said. "Everybody say, ‘You no speak English. No job.’ "
He and Miradje said they are seeking any jobs available.
Elle D’Agostino said she found out about the Cakiqis two weeks ago through her church, St. Timothy’s Catholic Community in Mesa, and Paz de Cristo community center in Mesa and decided to adopt them for the holidays.
Originally, she said, about 14 people donated items and money.
Then her husband got some of his friends at the fire department involved.
Now more than 30 people have contributed to the effort.
"The (outpouring) of love has just been amazing," Elle D’Agostino said.
She said she knows people who plan to donate new bicycles and another woman who is moving and will donate her entire furniture set to the family.
Sister Gemma of Paz de Cristo, which feeds as many as 250 people each night and offers various services for the homeless, said the adopta-family program assists about 100 families a year.
"There are people who are living constantly on the survival level," Sister Gemma said.
How to help
To contact Paz de Cristo: (480) 464-2370.