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Sep. 21—NEW ALBANY — A New Albany site is collecting items to support the thousands of Afghan refugees housed in Indiana.
The Indiana National Guard armory at 2909 Grant Line Road is one of nine regional donation dropoff locations across the state. The donations will go to Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh, Indiana, where about 6,600 Afghan evacuees are now housed.
Louisville resident Linda Oliver donated clothing items Tuesday morning to the New Albany site. She works in New Albany, and she decided to contribute to the effort after seeing a request for donations from Gov. Eric Holcomb. She and her husband bought socks, underwear and T-shirts to donate.
"I wish I could do more — they need everything they can get, these poor people who have been displaced," Oliver said. "They're in a new country, everything's strange and different, and if a few clothing items can help make their life easier, that's the least I can do."
Lt. Colonel Randi Bougere, public affairs officer with the Indiana National Guard, said about 14% of the refugees at Camp Atterbury are four years old and younger. About 40% of the refugees are ages 14 and younger.
Some of the greatest needs are items for children and infants such as clothing, baby formula and diapers, she said.
Bougere said before the donation effort started, the Indiana National Guard's public affairs office was "flooded" with emails inquiring about how to donate and help the refugees.
"The desire has been there for a significant amount of time, and then it was just a matter of time of how do we get enough donation sites spread around the state and make it easy for Hoosiers who want to help," she said.
Staff Sgt. Chris Falardo of the Indiana National Guard was among those volunteering Tuesday at the New Albany donation site. The donations started Monday.
"It's a big deal, and it's what we do," Falardo said. "A lot of people see the guard, and we're arming, we're deploying overseas, we're doing things over there and coming back, but the guard is much more. A few years ago there was a tornado and we stepped up to rebuild and clean it up."
"This is nothing different — we see people who need help, and we step up and help them," he said.
Falardo said the push is for donations of winter clothing as cold weather approaches. Donations were slow Monday, but they are starting to pick up, he said. As of Tuesday morning, about 10 donors had dropped off items.
The New Albany dropoff site is open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The donations at the site will likely be picked up and delivered to Camp Atterbury once a week, depending on the quantity of items received, Falardo said.
Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response organization, is joining the American Red Cross to lead the statewide volunteer efforts. Bougere said the response from across Indiana to support refugees is an example of "Hoosier Hospitality."
"We are a humanitarian-focused populace here," she said. "It's heartwarming, and it's pretty impressive to see people want to extend their arm and help out. We're all in hard times with COVID, and people are still willing to purchase new items to support these individuals."
In a recent news release, Holcomb encouraged Hoosiers to donate to the statewide effort to support the refugees at Camp Atterbury.
"Hoosiers have overwhelmingly responded to the needs of the Afghan evacuees and asked to help these men, women, children and families as they arrive in the United States," Holcomb said. "We are proud to do our part in helping those who have helped the United States and provide an organized collection effort to expedite getting the supplies to those who need them."