DES MOINES, Iowa — In the new year, there's going to be a lot of new families calling Iowa home, and some of them are coming from as far as 7,000 miles away. Fortunately, there are plenty of people helping make that transition as easy as possible.
Families of Afghan refugees began arriving in Des Moines since December. Arrivals in the metro have been receiving help from Lutheran Services of Iowa with settling into their new homes.
"We focus on finding adequate housing, connecting people with employment and/or education opportunities, cultural orientation, and setting them up with health care and making sure that they're received initial health screenings," said Jeanna Bauer, CQI Coordinator for Lutheran Services of Iowa.
As you might expect, crossing the ocean to a new home can be challenging. In order to help welcome their new neighbors, Back Country apparel in Des Moines is collecting donations for LSI. The involvement was Bauer's idea—in addition to working for LSI, she's also a part-time employee at Back Country.
"One of the things that we teach our refugee and immigrant families that work with us is we really try to help families learn to ask for help when they need it, and to really build community. And so I did the same. I asked for help when we needed it and reached out to my colleagues at Back Country," Bauer said.
Thanks to that team-up, Back Country is collecting donations from now through January 9th. They're looking for winter coats, backpacks, DART bus tokens, gift cards, kettles, and large pots and pans. If those last few seem a bit surprising, it's because they want to give the Afghan families—a little taste of home.
"Things like larger pots to cook rice in, larger skillets, those types of things. Also, with it being so cold and coming from a culture where they drink a lot of tea, tea kettles to help them stay warm and... and to feel more at home," said Nancy Strutzenberg, Director of Philanthropy for Refugee & Immigrant Services with LSI.
There's going to be lots of families benefitting from the donations—according to LSI, 94 families arrived in the metro in just the last three weeks. They're expecting as many as 300 families will be resettled in Des Moines, plus as many as 150 in Sioux City. You can find a list of ways you can help support those families, whether through donations or volunteering, here.