A winter clothing drive Saturday outside of Target Field will send winter clothing and other items to Afghan families currently at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin and Camp Atterbury, Indiana.
The winter clothing drives is happening thanks to a partnership between the Minnesota Twins and Team Rubicon, a veteran-run disaster relief non-profit overseeing the management of donated good at six bases across the United States.
“I deployed there three times in the capacity of flying over Afghanistan,” said Art delaCruz, CEO of Team Rubican and 22-year U.S. Navy veteran. “Despite not being boots on the ground, I certainly understand the incredible things happening as men and women volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan and have close contact with the population and build relationships there.”
delaCruz, a Minnesota native, says veterans alike felt a unique connection to Afghanistan and felt called to do something to help those who fled Kabul to the United States.
“There was a commitment that we wouldn’t turn our backs on our brothers and sisters, and that includes these Afghan allies.”
Jason Meszaros, Director of Technology Infrastructure and Information Security at the Minnesota Twins, served in Afghanistan as an Army Captain. His job was to build relationships with locals in Kabul.
“I spent a lot of time in the community and I was in Kabul a lot,” he said. “As an intel guy, you’re connecting with sources and we had contacts all over. Some of them made it out and some of them didn’t. It’s heartbreaking.”
Meszaros says the business of intelligence is building relationships so people give information about certain areas.
“You have to build rapport with people so they trust you,” he said. “Trust is the only way to get the right information so you can actually go after the bad guys.”
Saturday’s winter clothing drive looks to provide those who were able to flea Kabul with much need gear before the cold sets in across the country. Meszaros and delaCruz say most Afghan refugees got to the United States with just the clothes on their back.
“There are a lot of newborns, toddles, and children who need clothing,” Meszaros added. “Afghanistan is a hot country and Minnesota obviously isn’t a hot area. These people need winter clothes and clothing so they can survive and adapt to being here at this point.”
Saturday’s winter clothing drive runs 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Thomson Reuters Champions Club parking lot. The first 500 people to make a donation will recieve a voucer for two complimentary tickets to any Twins home game in April or May 2022 (excluding the home opener).