Base prepares to complete refugee mission

CAMP ATTERBURY — Nearly four months after the start of Operation Allies Welcome, which saw Indiana’s Camp Atterbury accept some 7,000 refugees from Afghanistan, the base is set to close its safe haven by the start of the new year.

This success is partially due to a tremendous outpouring by Hoosiers, who Gov. Eric Holcomb said have given 75% of all donations spread across the seven U.S. bases that have housed the resettling Afghans.

When the refugees first arrived, so many people showed interest in donating that the American Red Cross had to issue a statement saying that it didn’t have the staff or ability to process such a volume of donations.

According to Google analytics, the terms “donation,” “Afghanistan” and “refugee” have been trending among Indiana Google users for the last four months.

Holcomb shared on Nov. 23 his excitement about the generous nature of the state.

“Indiana has accounted for 75% of all the donations in these different safe havens … It just shows you what Hoosiers will do in a time of need,” Holcomb said. “When we put the call out, U-hauls come running with supplies, and it’s really made a huge difference in other people’s lives.”

It is because of these and other acts of generosity that the refugees have been relocated so effectively, said David Hosick, the director of public affairs for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

“It is expected that the Atterbury site will be closing near the end of the year, so the donation effort will be winding down as early as even next week,” Hosick said. “There are quite a few items (donations) that are at Atterbury currently, and they’re making determinations how to best distribute that material.”

One other temporary housing base, Fort Lee in Virginia, has closed. The last refugees housed there were relocated on Nov. 17.

While Hosick said he cannot confirm Holcomb’s 75% figure, he could confirm that “Indiana was the leading safe haven state in the number of donations.”

Hosick said that he wants Hoosiers to know that the donations have gone to a wonderful cause.

“It’s a great example of Hoosier hospitality,” Hosick said. “This effort has been really well received, and agencies across the board have really stepped up and shown what Indiana is about in this regard.”

Hosick said that there are six to eight statewide agencies helping with relocation efforts. At a local level, many counties have created committees to help welcome refugees.

Despite the approaching closure, the need for some items is still there. The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration shared in a release, “With cold weather approaching in Indiana, new coats and warm clothes, along with baby and hygiene items, are in critical need.”

Ashlyn Myers is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.