A Stony Brook University student will be flying out Thursday to Bucharest, Romania, to drop off supplies he collected Wednesday in a one-day drive to aid war-ravaged Ukraine refugees.
Thomas Brinkley, whose father, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Edwin Brinkley, is stationed at the United States Embassy in the Romanian capital, said he began organizing the donation drive at the university a little over a week ago. His mother, Julia Brinkley, told him about how the embassy is partnering with the American International School of Bucharest (AISB) to collect and give donations and resources to refugees coming to Romania from Ukraine.
"I have this opportunity that since my dad is over there and I have the resources and time to go over there and help, then it’s within my moral code to do so if I’ve been given the opportunity," said Brinkley, 20, a sophomore at Stony Brook.
Brinkley’s donation drive collected items that included nonperishable food items, toiletries, baby wipes, hygiene products, phone chargers and markers. Brinkley will spend his spring break in Romania volunteering to distribute the supplies he collected.
Some people who donated Wednesday told Brinkley they have family in Ukraine, while others simply expressed gratitude for his efforts to help refugees.
Maria Zozulya, 19, a fellow Stony Brook sophomore who donated canned food and grains, said she has family in Ukraine still trapped in Kyiv, and donating makes her feel she can do something to help fellow Ukrainians.
"I’ve always been trying to reconnect with my country and learn more about the culture … and it really feels nice to contribute something directly to my country when I know they are in need," Zozulya said. "I didn’t even know this was going on, and I’m just glad to see so many people speaking up about the issue and speaking up about the injustice that’s going on in Ukraine currently."
A GoFundMe page Brinkley has started for purchasing donations had reached $1,413 of its $2,000 goal as of Wednesday evening.
Michael and Carol Cataruzolo, of Oakdale, said they heard about the drive on TV the day before and brought bags of clothes to donate.
"It feels great [to give]," Carol Cataruzolo said. "We went through all our closets and tried to come up with as much stuff as possible, and it was a pretty good load."
Although they don’t have family in Ukraine, Michael Cataruzolo said the couple feels the need to help those affected by the war.
"It’s a simple matter to us about what’s wrong and what’s right, and what’s happening over there is not right," he said.
Other Long Island universities and colleges were pitching in.
Hofstra University in Hempstead was collecting hygiene and medical supplies Wednesday for Ukraine victims.
Molloy College in Rockville Centre will be holding a special concert for Ukraine at 7 p.m. on April 5 at The Madison Theatre featuring several Broadway performers. The college will ask all attendees to bring clothing or toiletries that can be shipped to Ukraine.