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East Idaho couple starts charity to help refugees around the world

Business & Money

REXBURG – With an apartment full of shampoo bottles, cleaning products and various kinds of baby items — a local couple has hit the ground running to help a growing humanitarian effort.

Less than two weeks ago Eric and Emmilie Whitlock started a new grass roots charity in the Upper Valley called Rexburg for Refugees.

After hearing a message about service from the Latter-day Saint General Conference in April they decided it was important to help the refugee cause. Originally, Emmilie Whitlock and friends started by tying fleece blankets, but later they felt a greater burden to do more.

Now their apartment serves as the central hub for a large amount of donations that will make it into hands of needy refugees.

“It seems like since we’ve started we’ve filled a pretty big void in the community. Once we started Rexburg for Refugees so many people have said ‘I love this idea,’ ‘I’ve been wanting to help,’ and we just provided a vehicle to help,” Eric Whitlock said.

Emmilie and Eric Whitlock in their living room full of donations.

The couple serves the Upper Valley by picking up local donations and delivering items once a month. Donations go to the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center in Twin Falls, and to the Salt Lake City chapter of the International Rescue Committee. From there, the organizations make sure donations make it into to hands of refugees.

“We don’t collect money or anything like that we just focus on (things) like hygiene items, like shampoo, and conditioner, body wash and cleaning supplies. We focus on items for babies like cleaning wipes and blankets,” Emmilie Whitlock said.

So far they’ve received over 600 new and used items to donate to the humanitarian effort. The Whitlocks say they want to give to the cause with purpose. They also want to help educate the community about the best ways to give.

“We try to do a lot of research and find out what the needs are so we’re not just giving, but we’re giving with education,” Emmilie said.

Ian Zollinger, student housing coordinator for Rexburg for Refugees, manages the Snow View apartment complex in Rexburg. He said he and his wife wanted to get involved with this effort by collecting donations from apartment residents. Zollinger works with managers of other student housing complexes to collect donations.

Official logo for Rexburg for Refugees.

“I feel like everyone should be involved in the community — we’re all neighbors. When you see people who need help, you help them, that’s just what you do,” Zollinger said.

Zollinger said he served a Mormon mission in Kennewick, Washington, where he saw many refugees. Kennewick harbored refugees from the Republic of Chad, a country in Africa. He said he’s seen first hand the impact donations make to those in need.

“They were all very grateful and humble people they’ve gone through things that I can’t even imagine, that’s just changed their lives. They really appreciate (any help they get),” Zollinger said.

The Whitlocks said some 60 million people in the world are refugees in need of some kind of help. Donations made will go toward local and international refugee efforts. The Whitlocks pick up donations twice a week on Sunday and Thursday.

To learn more about Rexburg for Refugees and how to donate go to

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