Moorestown resident helps others in need

Saima Bhutta holds donation drive for Afghan refugees.

Saima Bhutta initiated a donation drive last October for Afghan refugees who were temporarily housed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst after evacuating their Taliban-led country.

“It was my stance with my organization … I told them that we need to keep doing things in the community on an ongoing basis to make sure that we are an entity in itself, and we are needed by our communities,” said Bhutta, vice president of Muslim Federation of South Jersey. 

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“When I found out about the Afghan refugees, we started doing things at a smaller scale because we have no way of reaching out to the base,” she added.

After residents and organizations such as the Islamic Center of South Jersey became involved with the drive and Bhutta ran out of space to collect donations in her home, she was granted space in the basement of the Community House of Moorestown. 

Bhutta also connected with a commander at Fort Dix who helped her get security clearance to deliver the donated items.

“We got the clearance and once we got the clearance, we were able to take the trucks full of donation supplies to the base and we started doing that,” Bhutta noted. “ … Every few weeks, we would pack a big truck and take it. We were only providing them with the items that they really needed.”

Bhutta and volunteers collected items such as clothing, shoes, backpacks and sanitary items for adults and children.

The Muslim Federation and other organizations also helped children who were attending school on the base.

“We did a big drive and we were able to get them 300 backpacks filled with school supplies from just our community in South Jersey,” Bhutta noted. “We were able to get many from North Jersey and others.”

The federation honored the donation drive’s many volunteers at the Community House on March 13.

Bhutta and the federation also work with the resettlement agency Catholic Charities to provide furniture and household items for Afghan families who have left the base and resettled.

“These Afghans don’t have any household supplies, so we were reaching out to our communities … so we were able to get such good pieces of furniture and we reached out to (the) Charities and then they started, slowly but surely, starting picking (it) up,” Bhutta said.

“They were able to store this furniture and would take it to the people who needed (it), the refugees, as they asked for it.”

The drive ended in February but Bhutta is thankful for those who were involved.

“Somebody who starts a small thing from a garage never thinks that this could become so big … ’’ she said. “Thank God we did a good job and we were able to get things done in a timely manner.”

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