Central Albertans dropped off everything from medicine to night-vision goggles for embattled Ukrainians at a collection drive at St. Nicolas Church in Red Deer.
Local organizers were “amazed” by the generous outpouring of community support. “We got everything on our list” — and, in some cases, got more than was expected, said volunteer Alex Ivanenko.
“We had some people walking in, literally, in tears,” recalled Ivanenko, who heard their hearts were breaking for Ukrainians that have been under an unprovoked attack by the Russian military for more than two weeks.
The large-scale invasion — coming on the heels of a two-year pandemic — is obviously tough for many Red Deerians to process, Ivanenko acknowledged. “We want to help support these people who are reaching out to us…”
Anyone having difficulties is welcome to stop by for a chat, he added — or to call the Central Alberta Immigrant Women’s Association (C.A.I.W.A.), which has supports and counselling available.
Ivanenko said Carlos Anklan, manager of CAIWA, told him his organization would be happy to help people who are deeply troubled by events.
Meanwhile, local volunteers are busy accepting “boxes and boxes” of donations at St. Nicolas Ukrainian Orthodox Church —including large monetary contributions. One young man dropped off a $1,000 cheque from his grandma, said Ivanenko, who guesstimated that the total money — not counting e-transfers — has topped $5,000, so far.
Ivanenko also noted that this will be used for needed pharmacy purchases and to cover shipping costs.
Public generosity has so far been overwhelming, he added. One doctor’s widow dropped off a ream of medications that her husband had stored. Ivanenko believes some of these meds would be hard to obtain without a prescription, yet can be used by physicians in Ukraine to treat badly injured people.
Children’s and infant medication — painkillers as well as treatment for diarrhea from poor sanitation — were also donated, as were badly needed water purification tablets, antibiotic ointments, band-aids, braces, splints and burn kits.
“People are definitely stepping up,” said Ivanenko, with some people even handing over expensive items, such as $1,000 night-vision goggles for Ukrainian soldiers to use. Camouflage hats and vests, knee pads, thermal clothing were among the other contributions.
But offers of sleeping bags, kitchen items and clothing are not being taken at this time. Ivanenko said he’s telling people it would be better to hang on to these for when Ukraine refugees begin arriving in central Alberta.
He hopes area residents will push their MPs in the meantime to advocate for the federal government to decrease financial obstacles preventing many Ukraine refugees from coming to Canada. Most people can’t afford airfares to bring their families here, so Ivanenko would love to see some airlifts arranged from Germany and Poland.
Even as local volunteers prepare to ship dozens of packages to Ukraine, Ivanenko knows these supplies won’t last as Ukrainians continue a protracted battle for their homes “and their lives.”
Donations will continue to be accepted at the church from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
For more information, please call Ivanenko at 403-597-8267 or his wife Maryann at 598-9392.