Charity organizations prepare to help Afghan refugees coming to Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS – As Indiana prepares to receive thousands of evacuees from Afghanistan, officials with the Indiana National Guard say they’re already seeing an outpouring from those who want to make donations to those who will be temporarily housed at Camp Atterbury.

“We are in the process of setting up a formal method for receiving donations, and then processing those donations, inventorying them, and getting them into the right hands of the evacuees,” said Brigadier General Dale Lyles.

As that process is underway, General Lyles said those wishing to donate can call the Indiana National Guard at (317) 247-3559 and leave their name and information about how they’d like to help.

“And then once we build this apparatus to help with this outpouring of kindness of love, we will make sure we get your information into the right hands,” General Lyles said.

While details about donation collection are still emerging, area charity organizations are preparing to mobilize efforts.  The Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis said Wednesday it is in the process of gathering emergency supplies and basic necessity items to be distributed at Camp Atterbury.

Nancy Lohr Plake, director of the United Way of Johnson County said she is reaching out to the 17 agencies the United Way funds and works with to make sure people are ready to respond to any calls for help.

“Finding out the protocols from the government as far as what type of assistance needs to be provided and then following those protocols,” Plake said.  “When we are able to know what role we’re going to play, then we’ll be leaning on them to help with some of those roles.”

Gleaners Food Bank is currently going through its large inventory to identify food items that would comply with a halal diet, which follows Islamic teachings.

“Labeling that in our system so that when we’re asked to respond, we can quickly find those items that might be of most value and culturally appropriate,” said Gleaners spokesperson Sarah Estell.

Estell said Gleaners has been communicating with organizations like Exodus Refugee Immigrations and the Refugee Welcome Center to learn more about what food items might be needed as Afghan evacuees start arriving.

“We hope that they know we’re ready to assist when and if they and the families that are coming to Indiana need us,” Estell said.

Beyond food and other basic necessities, Plake believes the biggest needs will involve Afghan refugees adjusting to living in America.  A variety of different agencies will likely be involved in those efforts.

“Will it be educational services, will it be tutoring, will it be job assistance,” she said.  “There’s going to be a learning curve for all of us in what will they need.” 

While many Hoosiers are eager to help in some way, Plake says situations like this often require patience.  She has many years of experience with disaster relief and says the urge to rush to help is natural, but not always helpful.

“Need to be cautious about running to the situation because sometimes that can create more problems than it can help,” Plake said.  “And so, I think we have to wait and see what the government is going to be asking us to do and as well as what we will be allowed to do.”

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