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Locals collect winter gear for Iraqi refugees
Assyrian Club donation
The Assyrian American Civic Club has gathered hundreds of boxes of donated winter gear that is headed to Iraq. - photo by SABRA STAFFORD / The Journal

On a long table in a back room at the Assyrian American Civic Club volunteer Melinda Khubiar is busy sorting through winter wear that could soon prove to be life-saving equipment for the Christians seeking refuge in the mountainous regions of Iraq.

Khubiar is one of the many volunteers participating in a coordinated effort from the Assyrian American Civic Club with organizations and churches across the nation and around the world that are striving to get aid to the multitudes of people displaced by the onslaught of Islamic State militants. Called Cargo of Hope for Iraq, the operation is sending boxes and boxes of winter clothing, blankets, bedding, and other gear to the Assyrian Aid Society in Iraq for disbursement among the numerous refugees seeking shelter in the mountains to the north, where temperatures frequently fall in the freezing range.

The Turlock Assyrian American Civic Club alone has generated enough donations in about a month’s time to fill a shipping container with about 300 to 400 boxes.

“From east to west, Assyrians are getting together to help the needy in Iraq,” said Cyrus Amirfar, the club’s past-president and current auditor.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is an extremist group that is a break-away sect from Al Qaeda. In the months since it began seizing territory, it has killed numerous people execution style and in beheadings, it has forced individuals, many of them Christians, from their homes under fear of death.

“They are in bad shape,” Amirfar said. “They had to rush to get out and have nothing to get them through the winter.”

The local effort to contribute to the Cargo of Hope will be headed out to sea later this week. A second round of donations is expected to go out in mid to late December.

“There has been such an outpouring of love,” Khubiar said of all the donations.

Anyone wishing to donate new or gently used items can bring them to the Assyrian American Civic Club, 2618 N. Golden State Blvd., from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. The needed items are: winter clothing for men, women and children, sleeping bags, blankets, hygiene items, and other winter weather gear.