SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah organization is one step closer to being able to send relief supplies to people forced out of their homes by the Islamic State group.
Earlier this month, Operation Northern Iraqi Refugee Relief was launched. It's the latest endeavor of Operation Give, a Utah-based nonprofit organization. Its goal was to raise $20,000 to help send relief supplies, and organizers announced Wednesday they had exceeded their goal.
An estimated 700,000 of the more than 2 million people displaced by actions of the Islamic State group now live in tent cities in northern Iraq, some with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.
Inside a giant warehouse in Salt Lake City, shelves are stacked to the ceiling with boxes of relief supplies. These items have been collected by Operation Give, an organization formed about 12 years ago to provide aid to needy families around the world.
Earlier this month, the organization started raising money to pay for two shipping containers to transport the items to northern Iraq.
"We started out with a goal of $20,000, and due to the generosity to the people of Utah and nationwide, we've been able to pass that goal," said Rodney Fife with Operation Give. "So we're able to send two containers that we wanted, and we're three-quarters toward a third one."
Each 40-foot steel container can hold several thousand tons of product.
Items have come in from around the world, and Mesa Moving and Storage in Salt Lake City has donated warehouse space to hold all of it until it gets shipped out in a couple of weeks.
Tons of items have been donated — from toys, games and stuffed animals, to hygiene kits and clothes — donations are still coming in.
Employees at Fishbowl, an Orem software company, dropped off items in its lobby earlier this week. Fishbowl, which develops software so companies can track their product inventories, is donating its services to help Operation Give.
"So as they get donations, not only from this drive but from other drives, they'll be able to organize it, keep track of what they have. That's one way we think we can help," said Fishbowl salesman Cade Close.
Through the years, Operation Give has sent more than 150 shipping containers full of supplies around the world. Northern Iraq is the next location to receive aid.
"They need everything," Fife said. "They need sanitation, hygiene kits, diapers, clothes, toys; the No. 1 requested item from children are soccer balls and soccer uniforms. That's what they love."
These items will be on their way by mid-August and should be delivered to the needy families within four to six weeks.
For more information about Operation Give or where to donate, visit www.operationgive.org.
Operation Give does not send perishable goods, as shipping times are long, but it promises to get items to the people it intends to help — in this case, the many Christian and Yazidi refugees in northern Iraq.
Contributing: Wendy Leonard