News: Corps of Engineers workers join forces to battle winter for Afghan orphans
Story by Mark Rankin
KABUL, Afghanistan – Thirty U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees joined forces with the Volunteer Community Relations committee, a volunteer organization from nearby Camp Eggers to prepare two boxes of donated jackets, socks, hats, gloves and other winter clothes Nov. 5. The donations will be delivered to a large orphanage before the holidays.
The VCR team will make a weekly delivery using armored vehicles. USACE Transatlantic District North employees determined to participate in the program and dubbed their contribution “Operation Warmth.”
“A group of civilian and military employees launched the program a few years ago at the first sign of winter weather and still see the need to carry it on,” said Colleen Shanklin, chairwoman of the Corps of Engineers volunteers here.
The employees explained the need to family members, church groups and school groups and other charitable organizations across the United States and Europe, said Shanklin. In no time donations began to roll in. Hand-made knit caps, newly-purchased jackets, plus new clothes donated by several U.S. retailers, including Kmart, Old Navy and Target made their way to Afghanistan via a network of caring, Shanklin explained.
The group also collected toys, socks, shoes, blankets and other goods. The group, which is based at the Transatlantic District-North headquarters compound in Kabul, separated and bundled the donations according to the intended recipients' genders and ages. In all, they collected and prepared about 25 boxes of goods for delivery.
Air Force Capt, Ashley Housley, VCR director from San Clemente, Calif., thanked the Corps of Engineers employees for the contributions as they sorted boxes and said she hopes to join force again in their fight to help Afghan orphans, many of whom lost parents during long wars against insurgent and Soviet forces.
The VCR committee is committed to enriching Afghanistan communities through the efforts of volunteer coalition partners, civilians and donations from the international community, providing much needed clothing, hygiene and educational supplies directly to the neediest residents of this region, according to Housley.
She explained, “We will be donating the items to various organizations in Kabul. We may take them to an orphanage or the ministry of women's affairs.”
All donations are coordinated through the Ministry of Women’s Affairs or the Ministry of Education.
Maria Bock, a TAN member in the engineering branch who has supported Operation Warmth in previous years, explained, “My family has been involved with charities and work in support of children for years. When I saw photos of Afghan children needing shoes and coats in the winter, I knew that I had to help. This program is important in helping meet an immediate need of the local people and will have an impact long after the holiday season.”
Bock’s home district is Huntington, WV.
Corps employee Mark Willis, a construction representative from Campbellsville, Ky., said he was moved by the experience as he helped carry boxes and says he enjoys volunteering to help kids that have nothing, no one and no possessions.
“It’s just a great feeling to be here, getting involved in something like this and know you are helping to make a difference while you are deployed from our families, it’s truly rewarding,” said Willis.”
Shanklin said the groups of volunteers plan to keep Operation Warmth going throughout the winter months to help assist more Afghanistan children with needs.
Most of the Corps of Engineers personnel are on temporary assignments from their home districts or bases. Shanklin is from the Jacksonville District in Florida and Willis from the Nashville District.