Whidbey Islanders pitch in for refugee children

— Created December 15, 2021 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

Service. Community. Gratitude. Commitment.

Those are just some of the words that come up when one spends even a short amount of time talking with U.S. Navy veteran Clyde Shavers about the fundraising initiative he and fellow U.S. Air Force veteran Maggie Johns have started to benefit Afghan refugee children.

The pair, both board members of the Whidbey Veterans Resource Center in Langley, started a Go Fund Me account in hopes of raising $5,000 to purchase and send coats, socks, shoes, boots and other cold-weather clothing to refugee children who have been relocated with their families to the New Jersey Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst following their recent evacuation from Afghanistan. As of press time, the effort is rapidly approaching its goal, having raised nearly $4,000 already.

Shavers said the idea came to him when he was visiting his fiancé, Jodi, who is currently deployed to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst with the U.S. Air National Guard.

“I realized with over 4,000 kids at this base specifically, they were evacuated from Afghanistan in such a short period of time, all they had was the clothes on their backs,” Shavers said. “Little girls in sandals, children in just T-shirts. It gets very cold in New Jersey and as colder weather approaches, children are going to suffer. I thought it was my duty and responsibility to do everything I can to support them. These families served as interpreters, side by side with us.”

Support for the project so far has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Shavers. Not only have they nearly reached their financial goal, donations of coats, clothing and other items are pouring in.

“I have pickups lined up every single day,” he said. “Just talking with community members, seeing where they come from and their support, it’s very humbling. It’s so amazing and I’m so grateful this initiative is bringing the community together for an admirable goal.”

Shavers has already begun shipping some of the items he’s collected so far to his fiancé, who will distribute items directly to the refugee children.

“We just shipped the first wave of clothing with the following items: 352 jackets, coats, sweaters, and shirts; 80 pairs of pants; 180 blankets, scarves, and pairs of earmuffs and mittens; and 13 pairs of shoes and boots,” he said.

All funds raised through the Go Fund Me account will go directly to purchase more jackets, sweaters, shoes, etc. In the meantime, Shavers said he is happy to continue picking up donations of new or gently-used items.

“I’m looking forward to continuing this awesome effort and shipping even more clothing (with an end date of Dec. 31st),” he said. ” With so many families without warm clothing, we are appreciative of any and all donations, both new and gently-used/good clothing.”

Shavers said giving back to the community through service has always been important to him, especially after serving in the Middle East while he was in the Navy.

“This is personal for me and I am happy to do everything I can to speedily give this clothing to the kids,” he said. “The outpouring of support has been overwhelming and I’m getting these out as soon as possible. I want to make sure the kids have this clothing.”

The positive response to the fundraiser has been island-wide, something that does not surprise organizers.

“It’s not just a Langley thing or an Oak Harbor thing,” said Shavers. “Everyone believes in this and it brings communities together.

“These Afghan families, they supported our service members abroad in one of the most dangerous places in the world,” he continued. “They were side by side with us, risking their lives. The sad thing is, when [the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan], the Taliban went door to door looking for them. There were many who supported our troops and they need to be protected. I think that motivates all of us. Because when we say ‘We have your back,’ we’ve gotta keep that promise. These are families who are not just Afghanistan’s heroes, they’re American heroes.”

Anyone interested in helping Shavers and Johns reach – or even surpass – their goal can go to https://gf.me/v/c/gc5g/winter-clothing-drive-for-afghan-refugeeshttps://gf.me/v/c/gc5g/winter-clothing-drive-for-afghan-refugees. To make donations of clothing or other items, contact Shavers directly at 425-394-6765.