Volunteers team up to furnish, stock up apartments for Afghan refugees

Tulsa World
Tim Stanley

With more than 450 Afghan refugees already here and more on the way this week, teams of volunteers converged Monday at an east Tulsa apartment complex to prepare several units for refugees to occupy. 

Kelly Cassidy, director of volunteer engagement for Catholic Charities, said 50 to 60 volunteers were on hand Monday at the complex, unloading moving trucks full of donated furniture and household items and helping set up the apartments.

“From the beginning the outpouring of community support has just been incredible,” Cassidy said.

Volunteers planned to set up 10 apartments Monday, then five more next week, she said.

“This is the most we’ve done at one time,” she said. “Usually it’s been two, maybe three, in a day.”

Catholic Charities is heading up the resettlement of Oklahoma’s allotment of Afghan refugees, who are among the tens of thousands of people evacuated from Afghanistan with the U.S. withdrawal.

About 450 refugees are already here, out of a projected total of over 800.

Cassidy said another 100 are expected to arrive in Tulsa by Friday.

The refugees are met at the airport and transported to temporary accommodations in hotels before being moved into more permanent housing. 

Overall, the state has been approved to receive more than 1,800 refugees, the third-highest total of any state.

“I think it’s amazing that Tulsa and Oklahoma have been selected to do this. It’s a big deal,” said volunteer Meredith Howard.

Howard has been helping out now for several weeks, she said, sorting donated items and setting up apartments.

“It’s actually something where you can see the results,” she said.

David Brown, who was invited by a friend Monday, was volunteering in the effort for the first time.

“I’d seen it in the news, and I thought it was the right thing to do,” he said.

The donated items were moved by trucks from the agency’s warehouse.

Cassidy said the agency likes for refugees to be close together and that the openings at the apartment complex offered that opportunity.

“We think it’s important for them to live around each other, near each other, as they start their new lives,” she said. 

The agency also has placed refugees in other apartment complexes, as well as in some individual houses.

Luke Tucker was one of a group of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members involved in the effort Monday.

“We thought it was a great service opportunity,” said Tucker, an LDS missionary on a two-year mission in Oklahoma.

“Any opportunity to get to help somebody out, whether they be of our faith or have a completely different faith, that’s what we love to do,” Tucker said.

“The second greatest commandment is ‘Love thy neighbor.’”

For more information on how to help the refugee resettlement effort, including with housing, goods or other services, go to cceok.org/refugees.

Volunteers team up to furnish, stock up apartments for Afghan refugees| Tulsa World