International Institute of St. Louis asking for volunteers to help sort through donations


ST. LOUIS – From personal care items to clothing and more, it’s an outpouring of support to the International Institute of St. Louis. St. Louisans gave to the institute to help Afghans making their way to town. 

Now, the organization has pressed pause on those donations until Thursday and asking for help in a different form.

It was the real-time round-the-clock evacuation of Afghanistan. Tens of thousands fleeing the Taliban. 

Fox 2 first told you about the International Institute of St. Louis helping to resettle some 1,000 refugees in the St. Louis region over the next year. 

The Institute is asking to press pause over the Labor Day weekend while they assess all the items donated from the St. Louis community. 

“Well, it’s been an amazing experience,” Array Obenson said.  

“We’re extremely grateful for the support from the St. Louis community. When this started, our goal was just to get enough stuff just to get us by when the Afghans began to arrive. But we needed to get an extra warehouse just to contain the stuff.” 

Since Aug. 20, about 20 people a day have been arriving in the gateway city. That number is up from the 700 Afghanis already settled in St. Louis over the last 11 years. But this is a significant number, much like the Bosnian influx in the mid to late 1990s. 

St. Louisans have responded by donating clothing, toiletries, and personal care items. So much so that we’re told they’re asking to press pause on the donations until Thursday, Sept. 9. 

Asking instead for the donation of time and energy to sort through all the donated goods. 

“With that, we want to able to sort out and render an account of what we have received and make sure everything we have received is used judiciously,“ Obenson said. 

The other ask of Obenson and the International Institute of St. Louis is they’re in need of help with housing. 

While the federal government does provide a one-time sum for each Afghani immigrant, it’s only enough to last for the first 30 to 60 days. 

“There are those who have the special immigrant visa status who will be entitled to most of the benefits we offer,” Obenson said.  

“Then there are some who are in the process of qualifying for those visas, special immigrant visas.  They might not be entitled to the federal benefits covers or state benefits. So, there’s going to be a funding gap and that gap will mean that we mean money. So, if people can give donations that will be helpful.” 

The Institute says your new neighbors need help in finding housing in the region and are eager to enter the ever-increasing understaffed workforce. 

“We really have a great sense of what community looks like and community is each one of us playing our part,” Obenson said.  

“St. Louis can be a welcoming community; St. Louis can be inclusive.  If there was a time when that could be demonstrated, it has been in the last two weeks so we’re really grateful for that, and thank you.” 

To help some of those new residents here in St. Louis, the institute’s website.  

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