Local volunteers contribute to Afghan refugee resettlement effort

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By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor

Fresh Start Furniture Bank is located on Brent Drive in Hudson. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)
Fresh Start Furniture Bank is located on Brent Drive in Hudson.
(Photo/Dakota Antelman)

HUDSON – Volunteers are hard at work at Hudson’s Fresh Start Furniture Bank helping resettle a steady stream of Afghan refugees now arriving in Central Massachusetts.

As an international humanitarian crisis strains local aid systems, Fresh Start Director Sue Waudby is calling out to the community for help. 

“I never have enough blankets,” she said of one particularly pressing problem. 

Waudby and her team sent out at least 56 individual blankets to all clients through the first 18 days of October.

In just one day, last week, Fresh Start helped furnish homes for 13 individual refugees. 

“Besides my normal group of individuals that we’re helping, now we’re throwing on top of that this influx of refugees,” Waudby said.

 

‘We’re glad we’re here’

As the federal government processes refugee applications, it then hands the task of actually finding housing for individuals and families off to resettlement agencies, Waudby said.

Fresh Start Furniture Bank volunteers load furniture into a waiting U-Haul truck. Volunteers coordinate supplies to be sent to refugee families resettling in the US. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)
Fresh Start Furniture Bank volunteers load furniture into a waiting U-Haul truck.
(Photo/Dakota Antelman)

Those agencies then reach out to groups like Fresh Start. 

The work, Waudby said, is gratifying.

“We’re glad we’re here,” she said. 

This process, Waudby continued, is also eye opening. 

“It’s nothing we’ve dealt with before,” she said. 

Guided by communication from contacts at resettlement agencies, Waudby and her volunteer team are focused on adapting the shipments they load into trucks to make families feel as comfortable as possible. 

“There are some things, culturally, that are more important,” she said.

That list of things, Waudby said, includes items like teapots. Volunteers try to send those along, when possible, due to the popularity and prominence of tea in Afghan culture.

Quality rugs are also important, she said.

 

Furniture bank welcomes donations, volunteers

Waudby and the volunteers she works with don’t necessarily meet the individuals who receive the items they ship. 

The team does hear individual stories from resettlement agencies, though. 

One recipient of furniture, Waudby said, had been a cook on a US military base during the nearly 20 years of US presence in Afghanistan. 

“You read these stories and it is just terrifying,” she said of some of the other cases she’s heard about.

Volunteers coordinate supplies to be sent to refugee families resettling in the US.
Volunteers coordinate supplies to be sent to refugee families resettling in the US.
(Photo/Dakota Antelman)

Pushing forward in efforts to help refugee families, Fresh Start is also continuing its work on behalf of everyone from veterans in need to individuals experiencing homelessness amid economic struggles brought on by the pandemic. 

Individuals interested in supporting Fresh Start can follow the furniture bank on Facebook or visit their website to see a regularly updated list of needed items. 

The furniture bank also accepts donations, which help buy a variety of badly needed items. 

Likewise, Waudby said Fresh Start is experiencing its own manifestations of the national labor shortage. This has forced the furniture bank to pause its home pickup program of donated goods, among other things. The furniture bank appreciates any volunteers who can donate their time, Waudby said.

Those who can’t donate, Waudby said, can still help out by sharing social media calls to action from the furniture bank. 

“I have a lot of very generous donors…” she said, thanking those who already contribute money, goods or time to Fresh Start. “I am very lucky that I have a great donor base.” 

Learn more about donation and volunteer opportunities at freshstartfurniturebank.org.

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