A local religious leader thinks Janesville is ready to invite Afghan evacuees into its community.

The Rev. Dr. Tanya Sadagopan of First Congregational Church of Christ in Janesville orchestrated on Wednesday a donation event for an Afghan family resettling from an undisclosed Army base to a duplex apartment in Milwaukee. Since the family has not yet been assigned to the apartment, it won’t be immediately clear which base in the U.S. they are being moved from, Sadagopan said.

Leading up to the event, members of five area religious communities and local businesses donated time and resources to ensure this new family would have a seamless transition into a well-furnished home.

Of the five religious communities that donated goods or gift cards, four are in Janesville: First Congregational United Church of Christ, Faith Lutheran Church, St. John Lutheran and the Muslim Dawa Circle.

Gift cards for clothing were donated by the Delavan United Church of Christ.

At the church, a team of 10 volunteers loaded vans with cleaning supplies, mattresses and other donated goods for the family of six. Once the first vehicle was full of cleaning supplies, volunteers drove ahead of the rest of the group, who finished loading the rest of the new or slightly used items and furniture.

In addition, MacFarlane Pheasants provided two vans for the group to load, and beds were purchased at a discount from Verlo Mattress of Janesville.

As an immigrant-welcoming church, Sadagopan said she and her congregation were called to support individuals in vulnerable situations.

“We are finally able to be on the cutting edge of churches that are providing safe homes for the evacuees to make a new start,” she said.

After the evacuation of U.S. troops and some residents of Afghanistan, around 13,000 refugees were initially stationed at Fort McCoy near Sparta. Many of these families came to the base with nothing more than the bare essentials and the clothes they were wearing.

Now, an estimated 850 Afghan refugees are expected to be resettled throughout Wisconsin. Sadagopan hopes this recent outpouring of resources and donations by area churches can act as a catalyst for considering Janesville as a resettlement city.

Moving to a new country can be life changing in and of itself, but volunteer John Mansur thinks providing for refugee families will be fundamental for them.

“To be given kind of a fresh start and not have to think about possessions and materials, I think it’s huge,” he said.

After taking the rest of the day moving everything that awaits the family to the duplex, Sadapogan said they will have just about everything they need to help them start their lives anew. And while she and her congregation won’t know who those resettled evacuees are for a while, if ever, they relished the chance to serve.

“Simply put, I was a stranger, and you helped me, right?” Sadapogan said. “It’s very scriptural—love your neighbor as you love yourself”

Mansur added that “when you’ve been given so much in life, what you do is try to look for ways to help others.“


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