Salt Lake City donation warehouse for refugees in dire need of basic items

SALT LAKE CITY — At a warehouse off 400 West, volunteers move between isles during an afternoon rush. Stocked shelves sit ready with clothing, toiletries, and children’s books and toys.

Jennifer de Tapia helps shopper Henyer Padrón pick out household items. In a mixture of Spanish and English, she asks him what he needs. Together, they pick out dish soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, and disinfectant wipes.

Everything is free at the Catholic Community Services of Utah Sharehouse.

De Tapia knows she’s taking a burden off Padrón by offering up these items so that he can focus on what really matters– his family.

Padrón tells de Tapia about the situation he’s currently going through. He just arrived in Utah in December.

Henyer Padrón gets help from Jennifer de Tapia at the Catholic Community Services of Utah Sharehouse. (KSL TV)

“Two years he hasn’t seen his family,” de Tapia said, as she translated for Padrón. She explained that he is from Venezuela and escaped the crisis there. The situation in the South American country is dangerous, and Padrón explained that basic items like food are a luxury.

Since legally entering the United States, he has been trying to get asylum papers for his wife and two young children. Padrón told de Tapia that his youngest daughter is two years old. He left when she was only a month old, and he hasn’t seen her since.

“It’s a sacrifice that he’s making to come here and be apart from his family,” de Tapia said. “He’s working two jobs to be able to help his family.”

Empty shelves at the Catholic Community Services of Utah Sharehouse

Many shelves are bare at the Catholic Community Services of Utah Sharehouse where refugees can get everyday household items. (KSL TV)

She hears stories like this every day at the CCS of Utah Sharehouse. As a regular volunteer, de Tapia met refugees from all kinds of situations all over the world. She talked about helping Afghan veterans who lost their limbs fighting alongside the US military. The children she meets have made a huge impression on her, including a girl from Venezuela who is succeeding in school and becoming a mentor for other refugees.

“They’re doing everything they can to work, to learn the language, and just become a part of a [community] to provide a safe place for them,” de Tapia said. “And our community is a safe place.”

Right now many of the Sharehouse shelves sit empty. A list of over two dozen items CCS of Utah desperately needs fills up an entire whiteboard on a back wall. The items range from certain size diapers to kitchen items like trash bags and dishwasher soap.

“If we don’t have all these items in place, it’s going to be impossible for us to provide the basic needs,” said Aden Batar, CCS of Utah Migration and Refugee Services Director.

He explained many refugee families don’t have the means to buy everything from scratch when they arrive in Utah to start their lives over.

Batar said lately, the Sharehouse has been helping 30 to 40 families a month fleeing from the war in Ukraine. CCS of Utah makes sure their apartments are furnished with all the supplies they need, so the families can focus on paying rent and utilities.

“Every time a family arrives, we are ready to have things delivered to them,” Batar said. “Otherwise, if we don’t have the beds, where are the families going to sleep? If we don’t have cleaning supplies, what are they using to clean their apartment? If we don’t have dishes, what are they going to eat? So, it’s really important that we have all this basic stuff stocked here in the Sharehouse.”

Batar said the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supplies all the beds, so they’ve got those donations covered. But they are in need of other furniture items, appliances like microwaves and washers and dryers, and general household items like pots, pans, and dishes.

Batar said jackets and warm clothing are important during the winter.

But what they really need are the long list of supplies that are completely empty from their shelves.

Batar and de Tapia hope those items start coming in soon, for refugees like Padrón. He left Tuesday with a box of staples for his everyday life.

“To be able to give them a little bit of help here, is– it’s great,” de Tapia said.

You can get a complete list of items CCS of Utah needs here.

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