When current Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) executive director Angela K. Plummer first began volunteering with the nonprofit organization in 1998, the office was inside a garage at a Laotian temple.

When current Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) executive director Angela K. Plummer first began volunteering with the nonprofit organization in 1998, the office was inside a garage at a Laotian temple.

The organization consisted of 10 people who spoke five different languages, and they all shared a single computer, Plummer recalled last week.

Today, CRIS, as it is known, has a staff of 70 people from around the world, many of them former clients of the agency, which has offices on Sinclair Road to serve people in the Northland area and on Bexvie Avenue to help those who settled on the East Side.

These staff members "are fluent in many languages - Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, American Sign Language, Dutch, English, French, Hindi, Italian, Khmer, Kikongo, Lingala, Maay-Maay, Oromifa, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tigrinya, Tuni, Ukrainian, and Urdu," according to the CRIS website.

The agency's staff includes three attorneys (Plummer among them), a licensed social worker and an accountant.

The majority of the staff members came to the United States as refugees or immigrants themselves and now work to meet the needs of refugee and immigrant populations.

Services offered include acculturation, case management, employment, legal assistance, interpretation and translation, citizenship preparation and resettlement.

CRIS began as an outreach service of the Buddhamamaka Society

Inc., a mutual assistance association founded in 1987 by refugees from Laos, according to the website.

"The Society established CRIS in response to the unexpected closings of two local refugee resettlement offices in March 1995," the website said.

Funding for services began in October 1995 with a grant from the Columbus Foundation and a contract with Franklin County Department of Human Services.

After the Hilltop Civic Council closed in 1999, CRIS was chosen by the city of Columbus and the United Way to provide services for refugees on the West Side. CRIS is a 501 (c) (3) organization and retains a close relationship with the Buddhamamaka Society.

In 2001, CRIS became the Church World Service Ohio affiliate to provide refugee resettlement services to refugees admitted to the United States from overseas refugee camps. In 2002, the organization began a capital campaign that expanded and improved the agency office on Bexvie Avenue, and in 2004, it was approved for Board of Immigration Appeals recognition.

According to the agency website, this designation authorizes CRIS " to provide representation before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Executive Office for Immigration Review for clients."

In 2010, CRIS became an affiliate of the Episcopal Migrations Ministry to expand the agency's ability to resettle refugees.