Winter clothes an urgent need for Afghan evacuees at Fort McCoy

SPARTA, Wis. (WMTV) – A week away from fall, Team Rubicon and Salvation Army volunteers helping Afghan evacuees at Fort McCoy said winter clothes are what they need most, for both kids and adults. The two organizations are partnering to host a winter clothing drive, with the Salvation Army setting up four sites across the state where people can drop off donations.

Donations are being processed at the Wisconsin National Guard armory in Sparta, but Team Rubicon asks people not to drop off individual or group donations directly to armory unless the deliveries are already arranged. Those donations should go to the Salvation Army first.

Team Rubicon and the Salvation Army are asking for new items of clothing and shoes, although they will accept gently used. They also asked for smaller sizes.

The armory in Sparta is already filled with donations, and more are arriving every day. Team Rubicon volunteers sort through the bags and boxes, dividing clothing into women’s, men’s and children’s.

“Trying to sort all of that out is really adding to our backlog,” said Tim Van Eyck, a strike team leader for Team Rubicon.

Van Eyck has been sorting clothes at the armory for over a month, helping choose items for the more than 12,000 Afghans housed at Fort McCoy.

“They’ve come here with only the clothes on their backs,” he said.

As a Team Rubicon volunteer, Van Eyck is used to natural disasters, not clothing drives.

“We’re normally going into situations where you have to use a chainsaw to gain access first,” he explained.

However, this new challenge has been just as rewarding.

“I’ve seen a lot of smiles, I’ve heard a lot of thank you’s,” he described.

Van Eyck explains the needs of Afghan families are changing with the season.

“Coats is a hot item,” he said, adding, “Shorts, can’t use them right now.”

The expected change in weather prompted the Salvation Army and Team Rubicon to kick off a winter clothing drive, asking for new items like coats and shoes. Van Eyck added they need these items in small and medium sizes.

“Our guests have not grown up on our diet. They’re not eating brats and cheese curds,” he joked.

Four Salvation Army sites across Wisconsin are specifically geared towards accepting donations for Afghan evacuees. The Salvation Army will then bring the donations to the armory, where they will be processed and sent to Fort McCoy.

“I would ask that if you can, donate the plainest things you can. No V-cuts, shoulders covered, that type of thing. Modest, simple clothing,” said Team Rubicon planning section chief Jeff Wagg.

Right now, the armory is sending at least two military truckloads of donations to the base every day. Van Eyck said the support of the community has been heartwarming.

“We’ve found individual notes pinned to the clothing saying, ‘Welcome to the USA,’” he explained. “I keep coming back day after day because it means that much.”

Below are the four Salvation Army sites accepting donations. Monetary donations are also accepted.

Milwaukee, WI

Salvation Army Oak Creek Corps

8853 S. Howell Ave.

Oak Creek, WI 53154

Donation Hours 7am – 5pm Monday – Friday

Madison, WI

Salvation Army Madison Corps

3030 Darbo Drive

Madison, WI 53714

Donation Hours 10am – 2pm Monday – Friday

La Crosse, WI

Salvation Army La Crosse Corps

223 North 8th Street

La Crosse, WI 54601

Donation Hours 8am – 4pm Monday – Friday

Wausau, WI

The Salvation Army Wausau Corps

202 Callon St.

Wausau, WI 54401

Donation Hours 8:30am- 4:00pm Monday – Friday

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