This past April, CAIR Oklahoma and St. John’s OKC created a unique partnership to foster a resource center for Afghan Refugees in Oklahoma City. Since the resource center opened in April, 194 people have volunteered to donate, organize items, and create a welcoming space for refugees. A total of 836 individuals have been served by the resource center; approximately 80% of the Afghan newcomers who've resettled in OKC have visited the Resource Center at St. John's at least once since April 2022.Jen Hund, refugee services coordinator, expressed how Afghan families have benefitted from the resource center, “Between September 2021 and February 2022, Oklahoma City welcomed 1007 new Afghan neighbors who had fled Afghanistan following the fall of Kabul in August 2021. Many worked with the United States military or aid agencies, or other human rights NGOs; others are religious or ethnic minorities under special threat from the Taliban. Of these new neighbors, about 600 are children under 18. This community fled their homes, some with only the clothes on their backs. While many households have employment, they are building their savings and have limited income to purchase quality items for their large families. The Resource Center not only provides physical resources, it offers a space for the Afghan community to reconnect with one another in person. I've seen touching reunions of friends who hadn't seen each other since they were at refugee camps on military bases in the United States before arriving in OKC.” Jen, shared with us what it has been like to partner with St. John’s, “ St. John's has been incredibly hospitable to CAIR-OK and Afghan neighbors. They cleaned and painted the rooms before our move-in. They have provided us with two additional rooms for storing 1050 winter coats and 4200 additional winter items (hats, scarves, gloves/mittens, and socks) so all 1000+ Afghan neighbors who now call Oklahoma City home will have a safe and warm winter. On top of all that, the St. John's family has provided us with a continuous stream of donations to stock our hygiene shelves weekly. Volunteers from the community serve weekly because they love to interact with guests and make sure everyone feels welcome.” The community of St. John’s learned a thing or two about the unused spaces in their building.
Fr. Nate Carr, priest at St. John’s, shared how this partnership has been a blessing to the community, “This is a community that will outwork and outshine the number of actual hands put to the task. CAIR was an immediate 'fit' for us in its profound and charity-laden neighborliness, which St. John's was already given to embrace. This is a community that shows a love of God and neighbor in their very instinct—from the lease arrangements to the quick vote of welcome into our church facility to the immediate volunteer base that has worked week in and week out to make this possible. This includes paid staff, church members, and community associates at both obvious and surprising levels. “Jen Hund in particular, and CAIR more broadly, have made this the easiest, most natural, and most joy-filled endeavor imaginable. We took tired space in a sad building with a less-than-happy ending, and transformed it into a life-giving, gift-giving, cross-cultural space in which God's grace could be shed abroad in the lives of everyone present. Rooms filled with deferred maintenance, stained carpet, and overdue painting needs became the very lineaments of Christ in our midst. Thanks be to God, ” Fr. Carr said. CAIR-OK is providing new warm winter gear (coats, socks, hats, scarves, and gloves/mittens) for all 1007 Afghan neighbors who have resettled in Oklahoma City since Sept. 2021 as well as 36 additional school-age children from around the world who have resettled in the OKC metro area as refugees, and they need your help! Our Afghan neighbors fled their homes, some with only the clothes on their backs. While many of the households have employment, they are building their savings and have limited income to purchase quality items for their large families. Unfortunately, most newcomers also don’t have access to safe and reliable transportation. As they prepare for another full winter season, many do not have the proper winter gear for the strong Oklahoma winds. CAIR has ordered coats through Operation Warm, and St. John's, All Souls', St. Paul's, Resurrection, St. David's, and Grace are Episcopal churches who have already begun delivering items to us. We’re looking for more places of worship to join the current group of 16 interfaith, community, and corporate sponsors donating socks, hats, gloves/mittens, and scarves. We need 1043 of each item. Our most urgent need is adult men's items. Here is an Amazon wish list that people can purchase from for those across the diocese wishing to participate. We also accept donations of new items purchased from other stores, as well as those that are handmade. Please contact Jen Hund (firstname.lastname@example.org) to schedule a delivery to our Resource Center at St. John's Episcopal Church. We also need volunteers to deliver all 4200 items to Afghan families in the OKC metro area between Nov. 7 and Nov. 18. Here's the SignUp Genius link to learn more.
924 N. Robinson I Oklahoma City, OK 73102
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