Sunday, August 29, 2021

How to help 2

An update about needs and opportunities to help Afghan refugees came today and is here below. We are going to make a special page for further updates. Please check the AFGHAN AID page in the left menu going forward. We'll post weekly shorter alerts as needed. This update is from Veterbo's Sister Laura who convened the community group a couple of weeks ago:

The Basics:

There are approximately 3300 refugees at Fort McCoy with more arriving daily.  Fort McCoy could process over 10,000 refugees this fall.  We have no indication as to how many (if any) refugees will be resettled in our area.  The agencies and sites for resettlement are scrambling to get things in place and are not ready to take refugees yet.  This means that each refugee could stay at Fort McCoy for 2+ months.  Fort McCoy and various agencies are making plans for refugees to be on base through December. The refugees are in military housing, receiving three halal meals a day and receiving medical care (both physical and mental). 

What agencies are helping at Fort McCoy:

Currently Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, American Red Cross and a representative for the USCCB (Catholic Bishops) are at the Fort.  However, the Red Cross will be leaving shortly.  Many, many other agencies are assisting on the resettlement side of things.  I would imagine there are other agencies helping as well.

UPDATETeam Rubicon will also be working with donations.  If you want to learn more, you can check them out here:  Team Rubicon | Built To Serve (

Help needed:

At this time, the greatest and most immediate need is a core team of organizers who are able to work full-time at Fort McCoy coordinating a variety of things. Catholic Charities is looking for:

  • ·         Technical lead to organize MWR (morale, wellness and recreation centers) as well as organize and coordinate volunteers.
  • ·         Technical lead to organize the legal support of the refugees.
  • ·         Technical lead to organize distribution logistics at Fort McCoy.

These are paid full-time positions.  It will be intense work through the fall, if you are interested or know of someone who might be, please contact me (S. Laura) ASAP.  I will gladly share a job description with you.

Volunteer Opportunities:

Catholic Charities is asking for volunteers.  Volunteers will be split into two categories; those that can help regularly at Fort McCoy and those that can work at CC or collection sites.  For those interested in volunteering at the Fort, Catholic Charities is looking for individuals that can give a full week(s) commitment.  There may be other opportunities to volunteer at the Fort and if you are interested, please sign up through the Catholic Charities website here - Volunteer Application Form (

Catholic Charities is also looking for volunteers to process and sort donations and these volunteers would not need to go to Fort McCoy for this work.  Additionally, while Catholic Charities is being pulling into refugee work, they need volunteers to assist in their various other projects and ministries.  There will be many more volunteer needs as this situation unfolds.

United Way, through their platform Ugetconnected, is taking names of volunteers to share with agencies who are requesting volunteers.

UPDATE: The La Crosse area coordinators now Facebook group – Afghan Refugee Aid Coordination La Crosse. Afghan Refugee Aid Coordination - La Crosse | Facebook If you have FB please join!  This is where we encourage people to post articles, updates, questions, etc. and where we can coordinate information in real time.

Material/Financial Donations:

Catholic Charities has put out a list of donation needs and will update it as the needs change. You can find the list here - Afghanistan Refugee Assistance – Catholic Charities. More organizations are working on collections and links to their efforts will be available soon. If your donation effort would like to be included, email info by 9 a.m. on August 30:

Ongoing Organization:

We are working on a Facebook Page to coordinate all of our efforts, ask our questions in real time and share ongoing information with each other. I will send out the link to the page as soon as it is ready to go live.

The next large group meeting will be on September 6 at 6:30 p.m. If you would like to attend for your group/agency, please email S. Laura.

UPDATE: If you are concerned about ensuring your donations are well spent, check out charities at Charity Navigator first. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

How to help

About 1,500 Afghan families and individuals have arrived at Fort McCoy and thousands more are expected over the next several months. Some may stay in the area, but many will settle near family or where there is already an existing Afghan community. Until their next stop is finalized, they are in need of our understanding, love, care, and compassion.

Many left everything behind and suffered harrowing experiences to get to the airport and on a flight. Some have been separated from family members, including children. Often, extended family members are not allowed to accompany those who have the paperwork to qualify for exit. This is a trauma for families and for US troops who are trying to secure and oversee a very dangerous and chaotic situation.

How can we help?

Dozens of individuals and organizations are working together to build a local foundation and network to anticipate, find, and meet needs. If you can help in any way, please do. 

If you can donate to help with refugee resettlement or to help get people out of Afghanistan, here's a short list:

You may also donate goods - a list of current needs is here:

If you can help in-person, here are some needs. Contact the Red Crosse or Catholic Charities to volunteer.

  • Immigration/refugee/DOJ attorneys
  • Pashto speakers/translators
  • ESL teachers
  • Individuals who can commit to at least two weeks of daily help at Ft. McCoy staffing MWR (Morale, Welfare, Recreation) services, including playing soccer with children, serving tea, helping make people feel welcome, etc.
  • Individuals who can help transport people in Tomah and donations from La Crosse to Tomah
  • Individuals who can write letters to the editor and talk to co-workers, friends, organizations with a message of welcome, support, and responsibility to counter some of the ugly rumors being circulated on social media
This is a very preliminary list. We will have more ideas, links and lists as they are developed. The large community group that has been meeting since last week will split into teams now to more specifically focus on areas like material donations, spiritual needs, veteran care, resolutions and communications and more. 

If you represent a group or organization and would like to be involved, email Sister Laura ( who is moderating the group.

There are plans to pass resolutions welcoming and pledging support for refugees. If you can send a short email to the city council and county board in support of such a move, please do. If you are a council member in Onalaska, Holmen, West Salem, or other La Crosse area communities, check out this model from Pierce County, Washington and this example from the University of Kentucky.

Please do whatever you can and do not allow false narratives and misinformation to spread. To this last point, I beg you to read about and practice the "truth sandwich" developed by communication expert Dr. George Lakoff to help communicators avoid inadvertently amplifying lies.

These dear fellow humans have been traumatized enough without rumors, misinformation, and fear-mongering by certain officials and social media trolls adding to their misery.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

August 26 - Jobs, Justice, Clean Energy

On August 26, from noon to 2:30 p.m., La Crosse area residents concerned about the climate crisis will gather at Western Technical College to press the need for elected officials to #ACTNOW ON CLIMATE in federal priorities and budgets.

Two bills - a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a larger reconciliation bill that more fully addresses climate action - are moving forward in the House and Senate, but there are many challenges ahead. People who believe the IPCC report (Code RED for humanity) must continue pushing for immediate meaningful climate action which will address the threats and causes of increasing global heating.

At noon on Thursday near the Western Technical College Integrated Tech Building (the courtyard area), community members are invited to create a handprint banner and rock art with rocks from their homes along the Mississippi and Driftless Region. 

Immediately following the community art portion of the event, there will be a press conference at 1 p.m. followed by a march to deliver the message to US Congressman Ron Kind.

The Driftless Region of Wisconsin is already facing severe flooding, droughts, and many threats to safe drinking water. In our country and world, carbon emissions are making areas of Earth uninhabitable, forcing millions to flee their homes. Billions of animals are burning, cooking to death, and starving because of human-caused global heating. We must do a U-turn on fossil fuel use right now to stop the worst scenarios from occurring and the window of opportunity is very small.

This event is co-sponsors by Citizen Action of Wisconsin Driftless Co-op, Sierra Club of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Conservation Voters. 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

August 29: Infrastructure Town Hall with Bernie

Cedar Rapids August 29 at 2 p.m. RSVP HERE

“For too many decades, Congress has ignored the needs of the working class, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor. Now is the time for bold action. Now is the time to restore faith in ordinary Americans that their government can work for them, and not just wealthy campaign contributors. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this Budget Resolution and a reconciliation bill that works for working families, not the top one percent.”

Read the summary on the reconciling instructions here.

Read the resolution text here.

Read the committee print to accompany the FY22 budget resolution here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Waking Up White Community Read

 From La Crosse Waking Up White Collaborative:

1. Starting August 16 - Access the Waking Up White Book:

Books available starting August 16: 

  • Wisconsin residents, check out a book through the Winding Rivers Library System
  • Individual paperback books
  • Book kits (10 books plus guided discussion) available for check out to be used for hosting book discussions
  • Minnesota residents, check out a book through the Southeastern Libraries Cooperating System
Pick up a FREE COPY at one of these locations:
  • La Crosse Public Library, 800 Main St., La Crosse 
  • People's Food Co-op, 315 5th Ave. S., La Crosse
  • Cameron Park Farmer's Markets in La Crosse - Bridges Church table on Aug. 20 & 27, Sept. 4 & 18
  • Trinity Lutheran Church, Monday nights, "Monday Meals" 5-6 pm, 1010 Sill St., La Crosse
  • Our Savior's Lutheran Church​​, Tuesday nights, "Come for Supper" 5-6:30 pm, 612 Division St., La Crosse

2. Starting Aug. 16 - Sign up for Book Chats - small group, In Person, theme-based facilitated discussions. Book Chats are free, 90-minute, small group, theme-based facilitated discussions based on a topic raised in the book Waking Up White. Having read the book is not a prerequisite for joining a discussion. Book chat spaces are limited to 6 people per group to facilitate courageous conversations. Register early, starting Aug. 16 through the La Crosse Public Library, for best selection - registration opens Aug. 16. COVID-19 in-person recommendations from local health departments will be observed. 

To sign up, go to the library's event calendar and click on individual programs. 

3. Starting Sept. 12 - Attend Free, Public, In person*, Presentations - Public Presentations are free, in-person presentations (streaming available for most) on a variety of antiracism topics with local relevance. Having read Waking Up White is not a prerequisite for attending a presentation. COVID-19 in-person recommendations from local health departments will be observed. 

Visit event site for more details:

Monday, August 09, 2021

Climate CODE RED

First, an updated on weighing in about how the city should spend American Recovery Act Funds. There is a detailed section of the May 17 Federal Register outlining what are and aren't acceptable uses for these funds. Acceptable would be weatherizing the heck (to net zero?) out of low-income housing or restoring funding for public services cut because of COVID (ahem, LIBRARY). Unacceptable, starting new programs that will require new funding to keep them going. Read it for yourself and then please complete the online forms to share your priorities.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released its latest report and it can be (and has been) summed up in two words: CODE RED

"Within the next two decades, temperatures are likely to rise by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, breaching the ambition of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, and bringing widespread devastation and extreme weather.

"Only rapid and drastic reductions in greenhouse gases in this decade can prevent such climate breakdown, with every fraction of a degree of further heating likely to compound the accelerating effects, according to the International Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on climate science." - Major climate changes inevitable and irreversible – IPCC’s starkest warning yet, The Guardian (UK), August 9

As many are pointing out, dire does not mean hopeless. We have the knowledge and the tools to make major changes immediately. While it's true that a huge chunk of emissions comes from a few large corporations, another huge chunk comes from our current "business as usual," and that can change if enough people make it change.

Our city and county are taking steps now to plan for climate action. The city has already put solar panels on buildings and will soon start an interactive climate plan process. The county is taking a similar path, led by County Board Chair Monica Kruse who clearly gets it.

There are some institutions that are ahead on climate action, like Gundersen Health Systems and Organic Valley, and there are some who haven't yet committed, like UW-L and the La Crosse School District. We need to let all our institutions and electeds know that we expect strong action now. In addtition, we should press for divestment as the UW Divestment Council and others in the state are doing. How many La Crosse foundations are divested from fossil fuels? 

Take action by contacting elected representatives to tell them how important this is. Demand that fossil fuel subsidies be stripped from legislation and that the Biden administration shuts down Line 3. Ask your school and workplace what their climate action plans are. Tell our local media that we want them to start giving at least as much coverage to the climate crisis as they do to high school sports. Work with divestment movements to ensure fossil fuel industries can't find funding. Promote clean, renewable energy solutions like walk/bike/transit programs and strong weatherization initiatives. Call out business as usual and demand climate action priorities and thinking.