Now that November has hit, temperatures are dropping. And for many refugees, it is the first time they will experience such temperatures, and their first time experiencing snow. Because of this, many refugees do not yet own any winter gear.
However, students at Waukee’s Maple Grove Elementary School in Des Moines are meeting the need by participating in a Winter Warmth Drive.
The third graders take turns sorting the items and spreading the word. Sophie said, “We’ve been having people go to other classrooms and be saying these speeches to collect more stuff for everyone.” The Winter Warmth Drive is an effort that has been helping area families for the last 10 years. The coats, scarves, and gloves the students collect will mean the world to those who get them. Third grader Josiah Van Leeuwen said, “It’s really important to have them in this weather.” The third graders take turns sorting the items and spreading the word. Maple Grove Elementary School was the first to participate in the drive.
In 2008, Tim Gaynor contacted Jones, who was his son’s teacher, about collecting gently-used coats and gear. Now, students at 27 schools organize drives. Gaynor said, “This year we need about 12,000 items. We’ve had over 12,000 items requested from us this year, from the agencies and schools we work with.”
These agencies include the Des Moines field office of USCRI, which needs 500 sets of winter gear for refugees resettled in the area. Director Carly Ross said, “The majority of new refugees to the state of Iowa are stepping off the plane to the Des Moines airport wearing flip flops and really light clothes because the countries they’re coming from tend to be warmer regions.”
If you are interested in helping collect cold weather gear, the Winter Warmth Drive will hold a Fill the Truck event on Wednesday and Thursday in Des Moines. You can drop off items from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at any metro Chick-fil-A restaurant. The two items needed most are snow pants and snow boots.
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