WEST ALLIS, Wis. - Thousands of Afghan refugees could be headed to Fort McCoy in western Wisconsin, and one West Allis-based agency is preparing to assist.
Luthern Social Services (LSS) is getting ready to help refugees who may eventually come to the Milwaukee area. The agency has helped more than 10,000 refugees in the past four decades, and this effort might be one of the biggest.
"We rise to the occasion to be able to serve these individuals," said Hector Colon, president and CEO of LSS of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. "The situations of these individuals is very sad."
As thousands flee war-torn Afghanistan, clamoring to escape a Taliban takeover, some may soon find themselves in the Badger State. Fort McCoy will be the first stop for processing, but some may eventually land in places like Milwaukee.
"We connect them to all of the resources that will help them be as independent and self-sufficient as possible," Colon said. "We help these individuals come to Wisconsin, to our country because they’re fleeing from war and persecution."
Hundreds of Afghan refugees pack a U.S. military plane. (Credit: U.S. Air Force)
The organization is part of a national network helping refugees relocate, assisting with language, training and jobs. Right now, an LSS employee is on the front lines figuring out who and when individuals might need services.
"Many of us aren’t ready, but we have to rise to the occasion and be ready to serve these individuals that need us now," Colon said. "Act compassionately, serve humbly and lead courageously to help these individuals."
Lutheran Social Services (LSS)
LSS was expecting to serve more than 300 people this year, but now it might be much greater as Afghan refugees look for peace.
Colon said they believe they will need to hire more staff and develop more infrastructure depending on how many people they will serve. That is a number they still do not know.