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Turlock Rotarians make a difference in Afghanistan
camp eggers
NTM-A/CSTC-A personnel help two Afghan amputees with their bags of donated goods. Over 400 bags, which contained clothes, toiletry items, toys, candy and school supplies, were distributed to several hundred Afghans who live at Qaragha refugee camp. - photo by Photo Contributed

During a trip to Afghanistan a few years ago, Turlocker Fin Johnson met a group of men and women who were trying to make winter a little warmer for children in the war-torn country.

Volunteer Community Relations (VCR) is a group of active military and civilian volunteers who collect donated clothing and other items and distribute them throughout Afghanistan. On their own time, the volunteers pack bags of children’s clothing and toiletries.  They leave the relative safety of military bases to bring items to orphanages, schools and outlying villages; some that do not otherwise have access to aide.

These volunteers made an impression on Johnson.

“I think it’s pretty remarkable considering it’s a group of people who normally work six days a week, and they spend their half a Saturday off doing this,” he said.

When he came back to Turlock, Johnson suggested that the Noon Rotary club sponsor a drive to collect items to send to VCR. The club has always had an element of international philanthropy, and they received a matching grant from Rotary District 5220 to cover half of the cost of the project.

In November, the Rotary club started sending the over 150 boxes of clothing, footwear, hygiene items and school supplies they collected to VCR, which is based out of Camp Eggers, Kabul under NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan and Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan umbrella.

 “Most donors will send one or two boxes, and we thank each donor by mailing them a certificate of appreciation,” said Theresa Sorenson, co-lead for Camp Eggers VCR mission. “However, there are a few individuals/organizations who donate on a regular basis or have provided enough supplies at one time to execute a mission.”

“Two donors who stands out from the rest, Rotarians Fin Johnson and Wayne Turnbow, of the Rotary Club of Turlock, has sent a box each month since I’ve been involved with the program,” said Chaplain George Adams, NTM-A command Chaplain. “One month, we received 30 boxes of clothing and school supplies from them.” 

“Because of donors like the Rotary Club of Turlock, we are able to provide more help to Afghanistan and reach more areas, which would not otherwise receive aid,” said Sorenson.  “By supporting this volunteer mission, they are directly supporting the war by assisting in rebuilding Afghanistan and strengthening ties with local Afghan communities.  This mission can continue only with the generosity and support of organizations as dedicated as the Rotary Club of Turlock.”

Mike Dini, president of the Rotary Club of Turlock, was happy to know that the club’s efforts were appreciated in Afghanistan.

“We are very proud of the significant, positive impact we were able to achieve through the efforts of our Rotarians — particularly Fin and Wayne — and the contributions from our Turlock community.  Rotary is an organization committed to the principle of ‘service above self’ and for the last 85 years the Rotary Club of Turlock has been striving to meet that objective through its community and international projects, and its contributions to the Rotary Foundation,” Dini said.

Last month, the final box of supplies the club had collected was sent to Camp Eggers.

The VCR mission at Camp Eggers can be found on Facebook.  Anyone interested in donating items for the Afghans, can mail packages to Chaplain Adams; VCR Pool House, APO AE 09356.  Boxes for military at isolated bases can be sent to Chaplain Gilroy, at the same address. 

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.