Kiwanis launch 90-day project to assist Afghan orphans

Kiwanis launch 90-day project to assist Afghan orphans


John Gessner, a Rockford resident and Army reserve officer, was called to active duty following 9/11 and is now serving in Afghanistan. Although putting in long hours, seven days a week, Lieutenant Colonel Gessner and fellow soldiers came upon the plight of nearby Afghan orphans, circumstances of immediate need, compounded by the approaching Afghan winter. By e-mail, Gessner shared accounts and pictures of his encounters with friends in the Rockford area, and recipients of his e-mails started asking, “How can we help?” City Hall employees initiated a drive to help, and this week the Rock Valley Kiwanis Club decided to support them and coordinate with other potential helpers, including veterans’ organizations, other Kiwanis Clubs, and Lions and Rotary clubs.

The Rock Valley Kiwanis Club has focused on local community needs for more than 33 years. “It is highly unusual for us to take on an overseas project like this,” said Jim Powers, a past president of the club and project coordinator. “However, this appeared to be one of those situations wherein many were aware of a compelling need and wanted to do something. Since it involved innocent children, the primary focus of Kiwanis, we decided to step in and spearhead the effort.”

The project will run from now through Dec. 31, 2002. With the Afghan winter coming on, that is a period of most pressing needs for such items as blankets and clothing. Also, it is a period during which Rockford’s “ambassador” will be on the ground in Afghanistan. “We’re all sadly aware of innocent children in that region who are having their minds poisoned by radicals, taught to hate Americans. This is a chance to show some other innocent children the real character of Americans,” said Powers.

The project website is at Details on what is needed and how to help are at the site.

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