Lynsey Kane, shown with Isla Cay, 1, and Bobby Jr., 4, two of her three children, is planning a Dec. 10 trip to bring supplies to Afghan refugees in Miami. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Joe Capozzi
Months before the people of Ocean Ridge’s Inlet Cay came to her aid, the 19-year-old Afghan woman and her family were trying to board an evacuation plane at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. A suicide bomb exploded, killing more than 180 people and injuring another 150.
The woman and her family were not injured. But in the chaos, she and two brothers, ages 7 and 9, were separated from their parents. They were rushed with hundreds of other refugees onto the plane, which made a hasty departure that day in late August.
The evacuation flight made it safely to the United States. Eventually, the girl and her brothers arrived at a Miami hotel being used to house Afghan refugees.
One day in November, they met a kind stranger from Ocean Ridge.
Lynsey Kane, a stay-at-home mother of three, said she went to Miami that day as a volunteer with Church World Service, one of several agencies assisting Afghan refugees in the United States.
Kane, whose father, Larry Petrie, served in the Air Force in the Middle East, said she was motivated to help after seeing news reports about the desperate scenes at the Kabul airport during the U.S. troop withdrawal.
Like others around the world, she said she was sickened by images of people clamoring on the runway, some clinging to the sides of airplanes taking off before falling to their deaths.
“When I saw all of that online, I was beside myself,’’ said Kane, 30. “I felt compelled to get involved. I didn’t know exactly what to do, but I wanted to do something.’’
Through a family friend, she got connected with Church World Service and launched what she calls “a very grassroots” mission in Inlet Cay, the Ocean Ridge community where she and her husband have lived for the past 2½ years.
She packed her black Lincoln Navigator with donations of clothes, kitchen supplies and toys that she rustled from neighbors and drove it all to Miami.
Kane, who has a sociology degree from the University of Florida and has worked with special needs children, said she met dozens of Afghans that day and was moved to tears listening to their stories.
“I was expecting to drop off supplies and then when I went there, I was like, ‘This is going to be my mission,’’’ said Kane, whose husband, Bobby, is a shareholder at the law firm Greenberg Traurig.
Of all the Afghans she met, Kane said she made a special connection with the 19-year-old woman, whose father and uncle worked as translators supporting the U.S. military in Afghanistan. (Kane is withholding the woman’s identity for safety reasons.)
“She’s the biggest reason I’m tied to this,’’ said Kane, who said the woman and her brothers haven’t seen their parents since the day of the bomb attack.
“She speaks English. One of the most compelling things she said to me was that she wants to be a lawyer but the Taliban was preventing women from going to school. She said to me, ‘Nobody is going to stop me. Nobody is going to hold me back.’’’
Since that first trip, Kane has returned four more times, ferrying supplies and getting to know many of the refugees. She and her neighbors are collecting supplies for a large donation they plan to drive down in a rental truck on Dec. 10.
They’ve sent out an email blast to friends and neighbors in Ocean Ridge and have set up an Amazon wish list. (www.amazon.com/registries/custom/ENTNILVGRJWP/guest-view)
The Inlet Cay volunteers are no longer accepting clothes, she said. Now the biggest needs are home goods, kitchen items, furniture, and baby supplies such as formula. They also are seeking leads for affordable housing and volunteers to help teach English.
Inlet Cay neighbors assist
“As my mother always told me, ‘it would be a sin and a shame not to help someone in need,’’’ said Tim McKinney, an Inlet Cay resident who’s helping Kane.
One of three small islands connected to the main part of Ocean Ridge by short bridges in the Intracoastal Waterway, Inlet Cay is a comfortable neighborhood of 65 homes, many of them million-dollar properties with boat docks on the water.
Although Inlet Cay couldn’t be more different from Afghanistan, it’s also tight-knit and full of generous people who often band together to raise money and collect donations for charitable causes, McKinney said.
“It’s affluent in (prices of) homes, but it’s not affluent in the sense that the people here are humble and aware and good and conscientious and kind,’’ McKinney said.
“I call it Gilligan’s Island. You know your neighbors like you don’t know them in any other community because there’s only one way in and one way out.’’
When Kane started collecting donations for the Afghans, McKinney was one of the first neighbors she contacted.
“Lynsey breaks down when she talks about it. It’s heartbreaking to hear the descriptions she has shared from the Afghans about the separation and deprivation,’’ he said.
“She’s an amazing mom and still makes time to put her heart and soul out there, knocking on the doors and reaching out to neighbors to support these people who risked their lives to support our troops.’’
Kane said the outreach to her grassroots mission has gone beyond Ocean Ridge, thanks to social media postings.
A Jupiter woman with no connection to Kane saw a Facebook post about her mission, purchased boxes of formula, bottles, diapers and wipes and drove them to Ocean Ridge, she said.
“The response from the community has been heartwarming,” Kane said.
For information on how to donate items and get involved, contact Kane at 561-814-0180 or firstname.lastname@example.org.