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Event helps hundreds of Utah refugee, immigrant families find needed items

Refugees and immigrants search through items donated by the Bountiful Orchard Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at an event on Oct. 23. (Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com)


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MIDVALE — A community event Saturday helped immigrant and refugee families in Utah find things they need, including clothes, dishes, appliances and furniture.

Members of the Bountiful Orchard Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints coordinated with a community group and other churches and donated thousands of items, enough to fill a cultural hall in Midvale.

Estefania Romero came to the United States two months ago, leaving a bad situation in Venezuela. She said she was able to find many things that her family needed.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to be in this country," Romero said on Saturday, and "I'm grateful for the help that I received from the church."

The stake worked with Annette Miller, the founder of UnityintheCommUnity. She hosted the event and helped connect the stake with individuals who were in need of help, although most of the individuals who came learned about the event through word of mouth.

"There aren't many things like this particular event because not only did they donate cash but they donated new items … people went to huge lengths to provide things and think about things that these families would need in their homes," Miller said.

Jackie Skinner came to help an Afghan refugee family that is staying with her find things that they need. She said they arrived at her house two weeks ago with just a few small bags and purses. She said the experience of helping the family has been "wild but beautiful." She communicates with the family through charades, and sometimes through making phone calls to people who can help translate. She said that there are so many refugees coming right now that the typical aid systems are not able to support them.

"That's why this is meaningful, because so many people are rallying to just offer support and just love hard on our new friends, and it's just awesome," Skinner said.

Skinner said that women at the event asked the family if there was anything else that they needed, and the daughter, who was a professional tailor, said she needed a sewing machine to make her mom clothes, there wasn't one there but the volunteers said they could find her one, and also said they would try to find them a vacuum and laptops.

Chad Gardner and his wife Susie are part of the Davis Communications Council with their stake in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The council's responsibility is to bring together people from various religions to do service. As part of this assignment, they along with members of their stake and individuals associated with other churches, organized this event within the last month.

"We put out the word that we were doing this project and we needed the help and it was just overwhelming. Literally this is all done by one small community, one stake," Gardner said.

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Gardner said that they expected over 100 Afghan families, but that there were so many who showed up that there is no way to know how many people and families the stake helped with its donations. He said when the building opened its doors for the event at 9 a.m., there was a line that went down the street with hundreds of people.

"Literally it was like kids on Christmas morning," Gardner said.

He has also helped deliver the items to homes, and he said that a family was almost in tears because of their gratitude when he helped deliver a bed to them.

Gardner also said that it was amazing to see refugees come and help as well, many former refugees were at the church helping organize items, translating, and helping people find what they need.

Norbelys Moreno, who came to the United States from Venezuela for political asylum, and her 10-year-old son Carlos Moreno were both at the event to help. She said that recently more people from Venezuela have been coming to the United States, and are sometimes coming with nothing because even their clothes are taken during the immigration process. She spent time sorting clothes for babies and women.

Carlos Moreno helped sort and move stacks of clothing and toys, he said that he would do anything he was asked to do in order to help, and that he just wanted to help the people who needed it.

"I felt like everyone is happy today and we're making their day," Carlos Moreno said.

Susie Gardner said she couldn't wait to show pictures of the event to the people in the stake who contributed, to show them how much their donations meant. She said they were worried when they first started getting donations that there would be too much stuff, because there were so many generous donations.

"It just feels amazing, everyone is coming together to help people who need everything," Susie Gardner said.

Chad Gardner said there are pastors for a few churches who said they would like to pick up any items that are not taken to spread to others who are in need, and any additional items still left after that will be donated to Deseret Industries.

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