A local church is leading an effort to help Afghan refugees settle into their new temporary homes at Camp Atterbury.
Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church is collecting donations for the thousands of Afghans arriving at the southern Indiana military training base, where they will be provided housing and other support before being resettled.
A few days after the first group of refugees landed last week, Rev. John Van Nuys drove to the base with hundreds of dollars worth of school supplies donated by the church’s deacons and a pickup truck bed full of playground and soccer balls he purchased from Walmart. He wrote “Welcome” on some of the balls.
“I grew up near the base and thought, ‘Get off your butt, John, and help these folks!’” Van Nuys said. “’You know Atterbury — and you’ve been a war refugee.’”
Van Nuys was part of a small group of short-term missionaries airlifted from the Democratic Republic of the Congo when a civil war broke out in the 1990s.
After the call went out for additional supplies, church members and people from the community filled his office with new T-shirts, toiletries and feminine hygiene products, which Van Nuys planned to deliver later Thursday. He plans additional trips next week.
“It’s just been a real outpouring of generosity,” he said, “not only from my congregation but from the community. It’s wonderful.”
Donors can drop off supplies outside his office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Enter by the red double doors on South Washington Street.
Once at the base, donations are processed by members of the nonprofit disaster response agency Team Rubicon, which is accepting volunteers. Volunteers must undergo an online application and training process and submit to a background check.
A list of accepted items can be found at https://rollcall.teamrubiconusa.org/Team-Rubicons-Afghan-Resettlement-Support-and-Needs.pdf.
The items include unbranded, modest summer and fall clothing for men, women, children and infants; diapers; phone chargers; individually packaged food; and hand sanitizer.s
“They’ve not gotten a lot of stuff yet,” Van Nuys said. “I said, ‘What’s the deal? Why haven’t you got more stuff?’ and they said, “Well, the situation is just so fluid, we’re still trying to get the word out.’”