When Longview’s Hazar Jaber first offered to gather items for Syrian refugees, charity officials in Seattle told her they’d save some space in one of their trucks. Tuesday, the local donations filled an entire shipping container all on their own.
“This has been amazing,” Jaber said of the community response to the clothing and supply drive. “We initially had a 20-foot truck, but I called and changed it to 40-foot when I saw all of this. The community has been wonderful.”
Jaber and her husband, Dr. Hani Eid, run Happy Kids Dentistry in Longview. Syrian natives, they recently traveled to the Jordan-Syria border on a dental/medical mission to help the thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing the bloody civil war that has engulfed the country. They returned a week ago and quickly plunged into the final stages of the supply drive they launched in October.
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“The need is so huge. Having been there, we know there are a lot of kids who need clothes and shoes,” Jaber said while wrapping a pallet full of boxes with plastic shrink wrap at the LG Issacson Co. Longview warehouse Tuesday. “And it was nice to say ‘We’ll have more items for you soon.’ ”
It will take about two months for the container to reach the Jordan border. Jaber said that should be at the height of the bitterly cold winter there, when extra coats and clothing are particularly needed.
A total of 480 boxes of items were loaded up Tuesday. In addition to clothes, volunteers gathered baby formula, school supplies and toys. A large group of crutches, walkers and wheelchairs also were collected because many Syrians have been injured in the civil war battles. The need is so great that there often are waiting lists for supplies. A recent one had 65 people competing for one wheelchair, Jaber said.
The “Cowlitz County” container will return to Seattle and be shipped to Jordan as one of the containers that go out weekly through the Salaam Culture Museum charity.
Several community groups helped with the local project. The LG Issacson Co. donated space to store the donations and employee time to help load the boxes. Longview Rotary is paying the roughly $4,000 shipping costs to get the container to the refugees. PeaceHealth and LifeWorks donated supplies and St. Rose Catholic School in Longview and Kelso High School and Family House Academy in Kelso held food and clothing drives. Family House students also helped load up the shipping container Tuesday.
“Personally, I think it’s kind of fun to think you’re helping someone,” said 11-year-old Anna Waddell as she lifted an armful of crutches into the shipping container.
“We want the people there to not feel like they’re just out there on their own,” said 11-year-old Damon Janisch as he loaded boxes onto pallets.
Barbara LaBoe covers courts and law enforcement for The Daily News. Reach her at 360-577-2539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.