AURORA | Mountain View United Church in Aurora is holding a drive to collect winter clothing for Afghan refugees stationed at a military base in Wisconsin.
The drive is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Monday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the church building on 10770 E. Evans Ave. New and like-new coats, hats, gloves, sweaters, socks and other small and medium-sized adult clothes are needed, along with wardrobe-sized moving boxes, packing tape and construction quality trash bags.
The clothes will be sent to 13,000 Afghans refugees evacuated from Afghanistan and stationed at Fort McCoy, a military base in Wisconsin, while they await processing to be resettled.
Aurora Police Department officer and recruiter Abdul Syidi came to the U.S. from Afghanistan with his family in 1981 and grew up in Denver. His brother now works as a translator for the military at Fort McCoy, and told Syidi that the refugees were in need of warm winter clothes and other supplies.
Syidi said he immediately reached out to the Aurora community to see what he could do to help. The Colorado Muslim Community Center held a fundraiser and Masjid Ikhlas in Northglenn, which has a large Afghan immigrant community, provided donations.
He then reached out to Aurora state Rep. Iman Jodeh to ask for advice, and she suggested a clothing drive.
Rev. Tracy Hugues, lead pastor at Mountain View, said that Jodeh called her on Thursday asking if the church could put together a donation drive at the last minute. Hughes immediately said yes.
“I said absolutely, we’re doing it,” Hughes said. The church building shares space with the African Leadership Group and a Sengalese Muslim community, and is active in social causes. For Hughes, hosting the drive is a natural extension of the church’s mission.
“It’s sharing God’s abundance,” she said.
On Saturday morning, an outpouring of donations had already arrived at the church after just a few hours. Hughes and other church members helped direct traffic while Syidi and a group of other APD officers who came to help on their day off sorted donations into boxes, along with Jodeh and city council member Juan Marcano.
Once the drive ends on Monday, the donations will either be shipped to Wisconsin or Syidi will drive them there himself.
Hughes and Syidi both said the outpouring of support goes to show how eager Aurorans are to support Afghan refugees.
“People want to help,” Hughes said.
For Syidi, the mission is personal.
“The only difference between (my family) and them in 40 years,” he said. “I felt like I needed to give back.”
Between 1,500 to 2,000 Afghan refugees are slated to arrive in Colorado beginning this month, with 90% being resettled in the Denver metro area. Rep. Jason Crow has been a vocal proponent of helping Afghans who worked with the U.S. military settle in the U.S., and Gov. Jared Polis has advocated for bringing refugees to Colorado.
The state established a Colorado Afghan Evacuee Support Fund in partnership with the Rose Community Foundation, which will give money to organizations providing support to the Afghan refugees who arrive in Colorado.
Syidi hopes that many will be resettled in Aurora, since the city is already a hub for immigrant communities. In the meantime, the city’s Muslim community and other faith groups are preparing their arrival.
“We’re anticipating hoping we’re going to have people here soon,” he said.