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Refugee donation drive brings hundreds to Midvale

Posted at 10:13 PM, Oct 23, 2021

MIDVALE, Utah — Members of the Latter-day Saint community brought hundreds of donations together all for incoming refugees.

They hosted an event at one of their churches in Midvale.

In a room filled with donations -- clothes, furniture, shoes, kitchenware -- for every item the eye could see, there was a need.

And behind every need, is a refugee with a story to tell.

Read - Utah refugee from Sierra Leone pays it forward to new Afghan refugees

Stories like Estefania Romero's, a refugee from Venezuela who came to Utah two months ago.

Romero has been learning English ever since.

“I left because of persecution from the government," said Romero.

Volunteers like Norbelys Moreno helped refugees select needed items, speaking in their own language.

Moreno sought political asylum from Venezuela 11 years ago.

"I’m happy, very happy," said Moreno.

Read - More than 750 Afghan refugees expected to resettle in Utah over the coming months

Moreno's son, Carlos, was born here in the U.S., yet, with wisdom beyond his years, the first-generation American understood why he was serving the refugees on Saturday.

“We need to be more grateful because there are people suffering in Venezuela and in Afghanistan people, they don’t have food," said Carlos. "That’s why we’re here to help people and to be grateful.”

That same spirit of gratitude is what motivated 38-year-old Jackie Skinner to get involved.

Skinner has family members who have served in the U.S. military, in Afghanistan.

With a close personal view of the events going on in Kabul, Skinner decided to reach out to local community services to volunteer her home as a place for refugees to stay.

An Afghan family of five arrived two weeks ago and have been staying with Skinner ever since.

"It's been super humbling for me to realize how lucky we are here as women, how much freedom we have to choose," said Skinner. "It is so humbling because they didn't have that in Afghanistan."

The Afghan family Skinner is hosting declined to interview because they don't speak English, but also out of security measures for their other family members.

Read - Partnership between churches supports refugees coming to Utah

Skinner said the family had four brothers who decided to help the U.S. military in Kabul.

That's when "they became a target," said Skinner.

Even in their difficult circumstances, Skinner said they still express gratitude and joy for being safe -- they have created a lifelong connection with each other.

“I could just smile for days and cry about how meaningful connecting with this beautiful family has been for me," said Skinner.

Most refugees who attended the donation event on Saturday did not speak English -- yet one could quickly observe the one thing that connected everyone, smiles.

Chad Gardner and his wife were the ones who teamed together with those in the community to create Saturday's event.

“You have individuals here from all different religions just coming together to serve, to help people," said Gardner.

Members of the Latter-day Saint community in Bountiful, donated clothes, furniture and other items to give refugees.

Gardner worried about communicating the event to the refugee community, yet their efforts of "word of mouth" worked.

“We were supposed to open at nine," said Gardner. "There was a line of several hundred outside at 8:30 this morning, knowing this was happening and there’s been a steady stream.”

Gardner said once they finish up in Midvale, they will take the leftover donations and move them to other churches and locations throughout the state.