Local groups host clothing drive for Albanian flood victims

As you gear up for spring cleaning, consider clearing out your closet for a cause.

Three local organizations have teamed up for a clothing drive to benefit victims of flooding in Albania.

The Albanian American Open Hand Association, the Pelham Parkway Neighborhood Association, and the Albanian American Women Hope & Peace Organization have partnered to send aid to Albanians whose possessions were destroyed in the wake of heavy rain.

“These people lost everything,” said Aleksander Nilaj of the Albanian American Open Hand Association.

During the first week in February, flooding left about 42,000 acres under water in four southern districts in Albania, causing more than 600 families to be evacuated, according to reports from the Associated Press. Two women died from flooding and cold weather, and residents lost about 3,500 sheep and cattle.

“These people are in desperate circumstances,” said Andrea Siegel of the PPNA.

“It’s good to help people living in those conditions,” said Mimoza Dajci, of the women’s organization.

The groups are collecting clothing and toiletries to send to Caritas Albania, a Catholic humanitarian organization.

The organization will hand out clothing to those in need, said Nilaj, and his contacts there will send back photographs of the distribution.

The groups are planning to come together to pack up the goods near the end of March.

This is not the first time the PPNA and the Open Hand Association have collaborated to provide aid. Last year they sent 125 boxes, with at least 4,000 lbs. of clothing, to Bosnia after a similar catastrophe.

“We try to help whoever is really wanting at the time,” said Siegel.

In the spirit of lending a helping hand, the organizations will continue to accept clothing donations, as well as toiletries and canned food, well after the drive for Albania ends.

They want the effort to be ongoing, in order to collect aid for those in need closer to home, said Edith Blitzer, president of the PPNA.

“You don’t have to wait for an emergency,” she said.

There are many local drop off points for the drive including Senator Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj’s office at 2018 Williamsbridge Road, Councilman James Vacca’s office at 3040 E. Tremont Avenue, Councilman Ritchie Torres’s office at 573 E. Fordham Road and the Apple Bank for Savings at 626 Pelham Parkway during business hours.

For other drop off locations or hours, contact Nilaj at (718) 913-2151, Blitzer at (917) 826-4410, or Dajci at (917) 645-7452.

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at 718-260-4591. E-mail her at jwilliams@cnglocal.com.

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