Watching and Wondering, then Being Called to Action
Like many Americans, Junior League of Washington (JLW) member Ellen Locke, watched the scenes from Kabul airport with a sense of sadness and helplessness. Locke wondered how to help. Then, Locke’s colleague shared information about a donation drive to support a family of nine Afghan refugees resettling in the Washington, DC, area. Locke seized the opportunity to not only personally support this family, but also to share the support request through her social media. She received a tremendous outpouring of support within just three hours!
With her volunteer wheels turning, Locke began communicating with JLW Secretary and Board Member Kelly Hunter about whether the League could also support Afghan refugees coming into our community. After receiving initial approval from JLW leadership to pursue the opportunity, Locke quickly undertook a research and outreach effort to determine which community groups were welcoming the refugees and what these new community members needed.
Setting and Exceeding the Support Goal
Working with the League’s Communications & Public Relations Council, Locke shared through internal and external JLW communications channels a request for household items, toiletries, linens, gift cards, and other items for donation through Lutheran Social Services and the Archdiocese of Arlington, two of the Virginia Government’s official refugee settlement agencies. The donations ultimately supported the efforts of these two groups and the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center.
The initial goal was to collect, over a five day period, enough items for at least five families. JLW met this goal within one hour of the communications going live, a true testament to the collective dedication of JLW members and supporters. During the collection period, 162 individuals, including JLW members and community members near and far, donated items and cash to support these new members of the DC metro community.
The drive gathered critical items to support the refugees, including:
- Over 5,700 diapers;
- Approximately 125 toothbrushes;
- Over 1,300 sanitary pads;
- 115 bars of soap;
- Over 3,500 ziploc bags;
- Over 70 sponges;
- Almost 50 all purpose cleaners;
- 17 crock pots;
- 1,380 trash bags;
- 30 cutlery drawer organizers;
- Over 300 pieces of silverware;
- Approximately 80-85 each of bowls and plates;
- 12 toasters; and
- 10 full sets of pots and pans.
Using some of the above, JLW created six bundles each of hygiene, kitchen supplies, and kitchen tableware; three bundles of linens; and eight bundles of cleaning products. Additionally, JLW provided $4,845.00 in grocery store, visa, metro, and other gift cards. Hunter, the JLW member who took the gift cards to Lutheran Social Services, explains that “The volunteer was so touched and so thankful for this effort that we made. Getting to see the impact of the work that we do and the work that this organization does first hand, is incredibly powerful.” According to Locke and Hunter, many donors also expressed their trust in JLW to get the funds and donations into the right hands.
Sending a Special Thanks
This was truly a JLW community effort. Thank you to everyone who donated time, talent, and treasure. This effort could not have happened without the generosity of the community in collecting funds, shopping for items, organizing the donations, kitting donations, and driving the items to the charities. Additionally, JLW staff went above and beyond their responsibilities by receiving shipments and drop-offs of household and personal items, organizing these items, and supporting those delivering the items.
Reflecting on What’s Been Accomplished and How to Continue to Support New Neighbors
As shared by Katherine Rodriguez, JLW President-Elect, “The Junior League of Washington does extraordinary things in our community every day. However, it’s moments like the Afghan Refugee Drive, an action that came together in less than 24 hours, that shows you the true power of our community. Together we can accomplish so much and I’m incredibly proud of how quickly we were able to mobilize, execute, and provide resources for our region’s newest neighbors.” In reflecting on the effort, Locke recalls the “outpouring of love, donations, and kind messages,” as well as many donors asking “what more can I do?” This event hit home to Locke, as these refugees are new neighbors in the local community. While donating a toothbrush may feel like a “drop in the bucket, it might be a ton for a family.”
For those interested in continuing opportunities to welcome and support the Afghan refugees, visit the Lutheran Social Services, National Capital area site, which is linked here or the Catholic Charities, Diocese of Arlington site, which is linked here.
Donations fill JLW headquarters