PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — Some refugees who have escaped Taliban rule in Afghanistan will soon call West Michigan home.
Local churches are helping to prepare for their arrival. Donations have been pouring in at the drop-off site at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Portage since Monday, filling more than three rooms with all sorts of household items.
“We have bedding and clothes, a microwave and houseware stuff that we had extra,” Vicki Terry said as she unloaded her donations from her car.
Terry said she saw a request for help on Facebook and decided to gather some stuff she no longer needed and put it to good use.
“It’s heartbreaking what they (the refugees) are dealing with,” Terry said. “Maybe they will have a good home here so I am grateful for that.”
It’s unclear exactly how many Afghan refugees will be arriving in West Michigan or when. Samaritas, a Christian service organization, has committed to take in up to 350 Afghans across the state and up to 130 of those will plant roots in West Michigan.
The organization is now working to find funding and housing for the refugees. Samaritas says it will take roughly $430,000 to cover basic needs for the 350 people for four months. A housing shortage is causing the search for homes to be difficult. Samaritas is asking anyone with an open home or apartment to reach out.
“I’ve moved a lot in my life. We started moving when I was 8 years old and I always have stuff to bring with me. So I can’t imagine coming with the clothes on my back and maybe a suitcase,” the pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church Rachel Laughlin said.
Laughlin said the donated items might not look like much, but when you are starting with nothing it means everything.
“To be able to arrive at a place where someone has prepared a home for you, it feels like a really good way to welcome and to share God’s love,” Laughlin said.
A few Kalamazoo churches are serving as donation drop-off sites:
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church
1747 W Milham Ave, Portage, MI 49024
1758 10th St N, Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Kalamazoo First Congregational UCC
345 W. Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Hours vary, so call ahead before you head over with a donation. Arrangements can be made to pick up larger items from your home.