Washington County lends hand up to Afghan refugees
The Washington County Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney's Office and multiple county departments recently completed a weeks-long food drive to collect items needed by Afghan refugees coming into the Portland area.
When all was said and done, almost 1 ton of food — everything from large sacks of rice to nutrition bars to cooking oil — was collected and delivered to Tigard's Muslim Educational Trust on Monday, Dec. 20.
Those who helped deliver the goods and unload a box truck full of the foodstuffs included Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett, Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton and Washington County Commissioner Jerry Willey.
Barton said his office has partnered with the Muslim Educational Trust for several years now. More recently, Wajdi Said, the executive director of the organization, asked him to attend a dinner that focused on helping Afghan refugees who have come to the United States.
At that gathering, an interpreter who worked for the U.S. Army "talked about friends and family that are still back in Afghanistan that are trying to get over here," Barton said.
Barton said coverage of the last troops and refugees out of Afghanistan during the fall of Kabul in August, as well as hearing about the Afghan families who would be coming to Portland, got him and Washington County employees thinking about how they could do more to help.
"The last couple years now, we've done a food drive to benefit different areas of (the) county, and it seemed natural to have something for the Afghan refugees. It's a good way to say 'welcome to the community,'" said Barton.
In addition to non-perishable food items, money was donated to the effort to purchase fresh products.
Sheriff Garrett said he was pleased with the amount of food county employees donated.
"Given the number of families expected," he added, "it's never too much."
Jahed Sukhun, chief operating officer for the Muslim Educational Trust, welcomed the loaded food truck.
Sukhun estimates that about 500 families from Afghanistan have arrived in the Portland metro and Salem areas over the last five to seven months.
At the moment, the Muslim Educational Trust is serving between 50 to 55 families with food, rent and social services, said Sukhun. Some of those families live in the immediate area.
Sukhun said he's happy with the amount of food donated as well. Much of what Afghan refugees in Oregon are receiving comes from religious institutions and community centers.
"A lot of families over there are stuck there," Sukhun said about the situation in Afghanistan. Some, he said, may have a son or daughter here, and his organization hopes to provide them with some food assistance.
The Muslim Educational Trust's mission is to increase people's understanding of Islam while serving the educational, social and spiritual needs of the Muslim community.
Those who want to donate can still do so by going to the Muslim Educational Trust website, or they can bring uncooked food, all of which should be halal (or permitted) food for consumption, to the center located at 10330 S.W. Scholls Ferry Road.
Commissioner Willey, who was busy moving boxes from the front of the truck to those waiting to bring them inside Monday, said he too was pleased with the county's food collection effort.
"I think it's a fantastic opportunity to help some of our new citizens here in Washington County, and this is kind of what we do," said Willey. "We're a diverse county, and we just want to say 'welcome.'"
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