Clothing drive helps warm up new Minnesotans

The International Institute of Minnesota resettled 1,074 refugees in fiscal year 2006.

Heather L. Mueller

For the second year, newly arrived immigrants got a chance to shop for free warm clothing Friday at the International Institute of Minnesota in St. Paul.

For refugees and those seeking asylum, “the weather is the hardest thing to adjust to besides the language,” said Shukri Hassan, coordinator of the institute’s refugee cash assistance eligibility program.

The institute’s annual winter clothing drive collected donations from more than 300 people Nov. 17 and 18.

The institute’s clients, immigrants who are experiencing their first Minnesota winter, browsed a wide selection of winter gear, including leather jackets, heavy sweaters and hand-knit hats, scarves and mittens.

In recent years, there has been an increased need for support for Minnesota immigrants.

In the 2006 fiscal year, the International Institute of Minnesota resettled 1,074 refugees. That’s 23 percent of all refugees resettled in Minnesota and 2.6 percent of all refugees resettled in the United States.

University alumnus John Wilson said he had planned to sell more than 100 leather jackets he bought at various thrift shops on eBay, but when he saw the winter clothing drive sign outside the institute on Como Avenue, he changed his mind.

“Santa Claus is my hero,” Wilson said, explaining why he donated the jackets.

where to go

Knights of Columbus St. Nick’s Coat Drive
WHAT: The University of St. Thomas Knights of Columbus College Council will collect coats, hats, gloves and cash donations. All donations will be given to Twin Cities families in need.
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Foley Plaza at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul North Campus
For more information, go to the university of st. thomas website

St. Anthony Park Lutheran Church, Bethel University, the University’s School of Public Health, the Rosemount High School Diversity Club and others also made donations.

“One woman even took off her boots and gave them to us,” said Robin Dusterhoft, a refugee cash assistance program coordinator.

Refugees who resettled in 2006 and are sponsored by the institute were offered the opportunity to select winter gear because of the costs involved in buying a winter wardrobe.

Safia Awale, who is from Somalia, said although she is adjusting to the cold climate well, she “can’t imagine to have anything colder” than the current temperatures.

“I plan to bundle myself up until I can’t walk,” Awale said through an interpreter.

Hawa M. Elmi, a Somalian refugee, came to Minnesota in September to live with her older brother and five other family members.

Through an interpreter, Elmi said she is excited to see the snow.

For refugees like Tatiana Loghinova, making the move to Minnesota from the Eastern European country of Moldova has not been much of a climate shock.

Loghinova, who has been in the United States for three years, waited with her two young children while her father helped her mother select a winter jacket from the rack. She said her parents arrived from Moldova in August.

Fill the bus

University student groups held a clothing drive effort of their own Friday.

The University community donated approximately 20,000 items of clothing to the annual Fill the Bus clothing drive in front of Coffman Union.

All donations went to People Serving People, a local charitable organization. Three student groups, Students Today Leaders Forever, Public Relations Society of America and sorority Alpha Gamma Delta planned the event as a part of the Month of Kindness.