Refugee Resource Center: Building an Oklahoman Community of Support

Council on American-Islamic Relations, Oklahoma Chapter (CAIR-OK) is a local chapter of a national nonprofit that strives to be a leading advocate for justice and mutual understanding. Our mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims, regardless of how long they’ve lived in Oklahoma.

Beginning in September 2021, CAIR-OK joined the efforts of refugee agencies (Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and The Spero Project), nonprofits, social service organizations, faith-based groups, community organizations, individuals, and many others to offer support to Afghan neighbors.

Catholic charities logo   Spero project logo

Read the following in-depth article from Oklahoma Watch on How Oklahoma is Preparing for Arrival of Afghan Refugees.

We mobilized the Muslim community for donations to provide warm halal meals from a local Muslim-owned restaurant to every family upon their arrival in Oklahoma City. CAIR-OK also gave each household a welcome basket containing a Quran, prayer rug, hygiene items, and toys for the kids.

ZamZam Mediterranean restaurant logo

The Okie Muslim community was also generous in donating Desi clothing (in styles from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh). In the past, many donors would store clothing donations at home, pack them up in suitcases, and give them to charities when they visited family overseas. There was no place to donate them in the Oklahoma City Metro area – that is, until CAIR Oklahoma began collecting it for Afghan newcomers!

By the winter of 2021, the outpouring of community support from across Oklahoma was so great that we realized we could dream bigger regarding how we served Afghan neighbors.

In April 2022, with a generous donation from APPNA (Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America), CAIR Oklahoma opened our Refugee Resource Center at St. John’s Episcopal Church and School, a neighborhood partner with a vision and mission of respecting the dignity of all people and promoting justice, peace, and love.

image of refugee resource center
APPNA and St. John's Episcopal Church logos

Twelve CAIR Oklahoma volunteers and 14 friends from Tinker Air Force Base moved us into our new space in only 4 hours!

Tinker Impact movers

Tinker Impact movers

With quadruple the space of our original clothing closet, we increased our ability to distribute donations quickly and jumped from serving an average of 5-6 households per week to 15-20 households per week.

clothes on racks


household supplies on shelves

Household items

hygiene supplies on shelves

Hygiene items

Throughout 2022, roughly 80% of Afghan households who moved here under Operations Allies Welcome visited the CAIR-OK Resource Center’s doors to choose clothing, hygiene items, and household goods for their families and homes. It is also a place where friends got reacquainted, met the newest (and littlest) members of families, and got connected to resources and services provided by other agencies and organizations.

women looking at clothes

Visitors to Resource Center

woman holding baby

Littlest Visitor

Interfaith, community, and corporate supporters donated time as volunteers and resources (financial as well as in-kind items) to keep the CAIR-OK Resource Center open and stocked with much-needed items for one full year. Our partners and donors always stepped up to support special drives, including those for prayer rugs, backpacks and school supplies, and winter coats and accessories.d settings.

Number of volunteers who served at the CAIR-OK Resource Center

Number of volunteer hours served at CAIR-OK Resource Center


Our partners and donors always stepped up to support special drives, including those for prayer rugs, backpacks and school supplies, and winter coats and accessories.

Prayer rugs distributed in 2022

Filled backpacks for Putnam City School students in 2022

Winter coats, hats, scarves, gloves, and socks

At the end of April 2023, after providing free resources to the Afghan community for 18 months, the CAIR-OK Resource Center closed.

Many remaining items from our Resource Center, including clothing racks and shelving units, were donated to Homeless Alliance, Dress for Success, Skyline, and Pivot, Inc.

We also created a sustainable way for Desi clothing to be available to the Afghan community and the larger Muslim community at a low cost by partnering with Goodwill Industries. Click here to learn more.