Grassroots group to donate winter clothes to Afghans - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Grassroots group to donate winter clothes to Afghans

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) - The fight in Afghanistan is about more than just weapons, and a new organization in Iowa and Minnesota is working to help build positive relationships with the Afghan people.

The group is called Rapport Afghanistan, and it's all about sharing warmth with donated coats. The group started when Iowa National Guard soldier Steve Boesen told his friend he'd be going to Afghanistan later this year.

"I have about 4,000 coats in my basement, and we are kicking off our fall coat drive," said Shawn Mingus, founder of the group.

Mingus got the idea when his friend, Lieutenant Colonel Steve Boesen, received his deployment notice.

"This is a way that they can give a comfort item, something that's significant, to an Afghani in a very cold region, and make a difference and potentially make a connection with them," Mingus explained.

He said making connections with the people of Afghanistan will be crucial in building credibility for U.S. counter-insurgency efforts.

"They have to build that credibility by providing support services and protecting the civilians from the Taliban," Mingus said.

Mike Morony has been friends with Mingus since high school. He and members of the Elks Lodge 590 in Iowa City are trying to get the word out all over Iowa.

"Our military have reported back that some people there are freezing during the wintertime," Morony said.

So, the goal is to gather 10,000 coats, scarves and hats by November. The clothes will then be shipped directly to Iowa soldiers overseas, who will hand them off to Afghan civilians.

"They will be basically distributing them to the people as they come across them in their villages," Morony said.

New or gently used items can be dropped off at the Elks Lodge in Iowa City, 637 Foster Road, through the end of October. Or items can be dropped off at the Elks trailer near Kinnick at the Iowa-Iowa State game on Sept. 11.

Online Reporter: Brady Smith

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