Afghan refugees receive kitchen kits from JustServe volunteers in Northern California

Afghanistan refugees in northern California will be given new kitchen supplies gathered with the help of Church members and other partners working together through JustServe.

When the refugees arrive in the Tri-Valley area, which is the East Bay region of California’s Bay area, they will be set up with all the cooking, baking and dining supplies needed for their new homes. These kitchen kits include brand-new items purchased and assembled by the volunteers. 

The International Rescue Committee put out a call for 50 kitchen kits in October, and the Tri-Valley community responded in a huge way. 

Organizers created a new project on JustServe.org, with an Amazon Wish List for things like fry pans, pots, knife sets, utensils and more. On the first day, 115 items were purchased and in only five days all 500 items were ordered to make the 50 kitchen kits. So organizers increased the number of items to see if they could get to 70 kitchen kits. In just one week, they met their goal. A total of 700 items were purchased, equaling a value of more than $11,000.

Volunteer Dena Webb offered to let everyone use her Livermore address for shipping as the items came in. She said the Amazon delivery trucks came by a couple of times each day and would stay for a while because of the volume of items they were dropping off at her home.

Boxes pile up at Dena Webb’s address for kitchen kits for Afghan refugees in Livermore, California, October 2021.
Boxes pile up at Dena Webb’s address for kitchen kits for Afghan refugees in Livermore, California, October 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

One day, she saw the delivery man just standing there. She could tell he wanted to know what was happening. Webb explained that she was the temporary storage location for a collection drive for Afghan refugees.

“He was so humble, then proceeded to tell me he is from Afghanistan and came to the U.S. as a refugee with his family in 2003. He said he benefited from this same program I was helping with,” said Webb. His family got a kitchen kit and other items to help them start their new life here.

“He thanked me for all we are doing to help and wanted me to pass on his gratitude to everyone involved. I was in tears talking with him. I told him I was so grateful to meet him and it is a joy to be able to serve and help as refugees are arriving. I shared with him that there are so many people who have jumped at the opportunity to help,” Webb said. 

Once the items arrived, the group had a kit-assembly party to unpack, sort and assemble everything. They loaded the kits into vehicles and delivered them to the International Rescue Committee in less than three weeks.

“I think the reason this one was so successful is because we partnered with community members as well,” said Bruce Bird, the assistant area director for JustServe in Northern California. “We reached out and invited other churches to join us; we invited community groups and other nonprofits to join with us.“

The project included help from Pleasanton Community of Character Collaborative, Lynnewood United Methodist Church, Hively, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, PTown Life Newsletter, AVHS Global Studies Club, PUSD Newsletter, Pleasanton Military Families, Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce, Granada HS Human Rights Club, Valley Montessori School and Livermore Sanitation.

Read more: 10 things you might not know about the Church’s humanitarian efforts

Bird said everyone working on it felt happy to be together and serving.

“As we worked on putting the kits together, there were smiles and having fun with each other. It was a very joyful experience to come together. That’s what service does for us, it allows us to forget ourselves and reach out and find happiness in helping others.”

And they are not done serving, even though they already delivered the kits to the rescue committee. Bird said the churches, community groups and nonprofits that worked on this project are prepared to again help as Afghan refugee families move into the area. They plan to move furniture and supplies into homes and get them ready as needed in the future.

“There’s so much turmoil and negativism going on, that we find great hope for the future as we see things like this happen, people coming together to make people’s lives better and communities better. Things like this give us hope,” said Bird.

For more information about helping Afghan refugees and about other local service projects, visit JustServe.org. JustServe.org is website where organizations post their volunteer needs, and where volunteers can search for places to serve in their communities.