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FORT McCOY

Community steps up for school supply drive for Afghan guests

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Great Rivers United Way, local universities, and the School District of La Crosse asked, and the community answered.

In less than three weeks, every item on the school supply wish list created by local English Language Learning educators on behalf of the Afghan guests living at Fort McCoy has been purchased by generous community members.

The “Operation Allies Welcome School Supply Drive” wish list featured 673 items totaling just over $7,783. After seeing the need firsthand, educators from Viterbo, Western and UW-La Crosse realized one way we could help was by getting supplies to the classrooms at Fort McCoy.

Great Rivers United Way Executive Director Mary Kay Wolf was not surprised by the response to this request.

“We’re lucky to live in such a caring community,” Wolf said. “The remarkable response to this school supply drive demonstrates once again that people here will do what they can to help others in need.”

Nearly 2,000 Afghans currently housed at Fort McCoy are attending classes on base as part of the ongoing effort to help them adapt to life in the United States. These classrooms on base, established by the refugees themselves, lacked the supplies necessary for effective learning.

Purchases made via the wish list were shipped directly to Fort McCoy and have already begun to arrive.

Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge Vance Callender is acting as Federal Coordinating Officer for Operation Allies Welcome at Fort McCoy.

Callender noted that “the generous donations we have received have helped both children and adults,” and are being used for communicative language classes, which prepare students to buy groceries, pay bills and build other life skills.

Great Rivers United Way and its educational partners will continue to assess the needs of the Afghan families living and learning at Fort McCoy, and will keep community members informed regarding ways they can help.

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