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Residents of a displaced-persons community in Nezuk, Bosnia and Herzegovina, sort through clothing donated by Americans. Soldiers delivered 50 boxes containing clothing, food and school supplies Tuesday to the community of 85 people. The donations came from Alexandria, Minn., hometown of Sgt. Maj. William Mateer.

Residents of a displaced-persons community in Nezuk, Bosnia and Herzegovina, sort through clothing donated by Americans. Soldiers delivered 50 boxes containing clothing, food and school supplies Tuesday to the community of 85 people. The donations came from Alexandria, Minn., hometown of Sgt. Maj. William Mateer. (Ivana Avramovic / S&S)

Residents of a displaced-persons community in Nezuk, Bosnia and Herzegovina, sort through clothing donated by Americans. Soldiers delivered 50 boxes containing clothing, food and school supplies Tuesday to the community of 85 people. The donations came from Alexandria, Minn., hometown of Sgt. Maj. William Mateer.

Residents of a displaced-persons community in Nezuk, Bosnia and Herzegovina, sort through clothing donated by Americans. Soldiers delivered 50 boxes containing clothing, food and school supplies Tuesday to the community of 85 people. The donations came from Alexandria, Minn., hometown of Sgt. Maj. William Mateer. (Ivana Avramovic / S&S)

A little girl waits for her mother while she sorts through the clothing.

A little girl waits for her mother while she sorts through the clothing. (Ivana Avramovic / S&S)

NAZUK, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Sgt. Maj. William Mateer told his wife, Sandra, how difficult life can be for many people in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Acting on those stories from her husband’s deployment, Sandra Mateer started a donation collection in their hometown of Alexandria, Minn., spreading the word as a guest on radio shows.

The goal was to collect 50 boxes of clothing, food and school supplies, but the residents of Alexandria, a town of 7,000, and the surrounding communities responded with 330.

The family of Sgt. Bryan Kallstrom of the 134th Signal Battalion of the Minnesota Army National Guard volunteered to pack everything and label it.

Many people who donated clothing wrote checks to help with postage, William Mateer said. At about $20 a box, the cost was steep. A youth organization from the town donated $1,000.

And a local trucker volunteered to drive the boxes to the East Coast, where the postage costs are lower.

Once the boxes arrived in Bosnia last month, soldiers got to work distributing the goods.

The village of Nezuk, where 85 refugees have lived for the past five years, received 50 boxes Tuesday. Unlike other refugee camps, which receive donations from time to time, this community only received this one such gift. Its residents have been waiting since the war ended eight years ago to return to their prewar homes.

“It’s a great day for these people,” said Cpl. Brian Self of the 416th Civil Affairs Battalion. “These people didn’t even have winter jackets yesterday.”

While holidays are close, the main idea behind the drive was to better prepare the Bosnian people for the cold winter, which is somewhat similar to Minnesota’s, Mateer said.

The remaining boxes of clothing will be passed around to other areas.

“It comes in handy whenever somebody donates something,” said Marko Brdar, the community leader. “Nobody works here, it is hard [to find money] to buy clothes.”

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