At the entrance of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Valencia, dozens of people unloaded clothes, bikes and other essentials in a donation drive for the Afghan refugees settling in the area.
Many church members helped volunteer and donate new and lightly used items for the cause on Saturday. In addition, many community members who are not church members were also volunteering and contributing.
The coordinating council communications director, Byron Green, is one of the organizers who could be seen helping the large groups of donors unload their donations.
Green said the church has worked to help the seven pregnant refugees with the items and resources they need for the upcoming months. He added that drive is to help the adults and children with clothes, bikes to get around the city and hot pots for cooking.
“Today, we’re focused on clothing more for the adults and the children, as well as bicycles so that they can get around as they get jobs and need a way to get to their jobs,” Green said.
He said the church has a great relationship with the Islamic community and other faiths.
“I think people forget at times how many good people exist in the community, and that when we all just pull together, there’s a lot of good we can do for each other,” Green said. “I hope things like this event help rally our community toward things that are positive and good.”
Once the donation drive ends, volunteers will sort the items for the different family needs and deliver the items to the refugees residing locally. Green said this work to help the refugees is part of the church’s goal of being closer to Jesus Christ through helping others.
Tori Whitmore, president of The Stake Relief Society of California, Valencia, was one of the lead volunteers helping to organize and manage the event. She was informed about the work of her friend Lisa Suarez, who began to build connections with the Islamic Center in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Whitmore describes herself as an “organization freak” and said she began planning and moving quickly to help the donation drive come to fruition as soon as it was approved.
“We started really getting organized Monday,” Whitmore said. “So we’ve been able to put this together within five days.”
For Whitmore, the SCV is a community that enjoys helping others of all races, religions and creeds. She said that extending the hand of friendship is the crux of the SCV and is glad to see so many people wanting to help the refugees settle in the community.
“I feel like for the past two years or so, since the pandemic, we’ve had little opportunities to reach out and serve,” Whitmore said. “So people are aching to serve, help, and this is a perfect opportunity to reach out in that way.”
Mique Provost is one of the volunteers helping to organize the items and felt the opportunity to serve the community was important. She wanted to show support and kindness to the refugees moving into the community.
Although many people have differences, Provost embraces those differences as an opportunity for growth and better understanding.
“It’s nice to join together with somebody else, even if they don’t have the same beliefs as me,” Provost said.