Local kids raise money for Afghan refugees

Money raised from sales of bookmarks, jewlery at Park Avenue stand will go to refugees at military base

From left, Silas Colarusso, 8, Sophie Colarusso, 13, and Amelia Colarusso, 10, hold the bookmarks, drawings and earrings they have for sale at their stand on Park Avenue, where they have been raising money for refugees from Afghanistan who are living at a military base in New Jersey. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

SARANAC LAKE — From a small roadside stand on Park Avenue, Silas, Sophie and Amelia Colarusso are making a big difference.

The siblings — 8,13 and 10, respectively — have been selling crafts from their front yard to raise money to support refugees fleeing Taliban-controlled Afghanistan who are living on a military base in New Jersey.

Their mom, Kristi, said she and her husband have been explaining the news they’re seeing about Afghanistan, the U.S. military pulling out of the country and the takeover of the Taliban to their kids.

“We heard about what was happening and we just wanted to help in some way,” Amelia said.

They carried a fake kitchen stand out from their basement, a relic from their preschool days, and have been selling bookmarks, jewelry and paintings at 425 Park Ave. They didn’t expect to raise much money.

“Literally, I said, ‘Oh man, I think we’re just going to get cents,'” Silas said.

They raised $230 in their first three days and that money has already been sent down to a church supporting the Afghan evacuees.

“The people of Saranac Lake are really generous,” Sophie said.

Their customers are neighborhood walkers, family friends stopping by to see what they’ve set up and motorists slamming on their brakes as they pass by.

They’ve got colorful origami bookmarks that fit snugly over the corner of a page. Some have animals drawn on them. They’ve got bracelets, earrings and key rings, all made with Lego pieces and beads. Sophi has a painting of a fuzzy Shiba Inu dog.

Sophie said their parents have friends in New Jersey who go to a church with a direct connection to volunteers at the the U.S. military’s McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst joint base, where around 8,500 evacuees are currently living in tent encampments.

Kristi said it felt overwhelming and paralyzing to see people fleeing for their lives and landing in a safe country with only what they could carry.

“We want to show our neighbors God’s love,” she said.

The Colarusso children were making crafts before they started selling them, but they quickly depleted their stock and have been making more. They started off with fixed prices for their wares, but switched to just taking donations because people were giving so much more money, the prices were pointless.

Last week, U.S. senators announced the base will be taking in around 4,500 refugees, with the possibility of hosting up to 13,000. They need supplies for all the new residents — food, clothes and essentials.

The U.S. is vetting all the refugees and preparing to find them permanent homes in America.

Last month, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that New York would be ready to accept refugees from Afghanistan.

Kristi said since they resumed school in Saranac Lake last week, they’ve been stationed outside at the stand in the evenings, but they plan to continue raising money and sending donations, as the needs of the Afghan refugees is not going away anytime soon.


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