Long Islanders come to Lindenhurst, East Hills to donate to help Ukrainians
Heartbreaking images out of war-torn Ukraine have prompted an outpouring of donations and volunteerism on Long Island from people eager to help both refugees and those who have stayed behind.
People from all over the Island came to Lindenhurst and East Hills on Sunday to donate clothes, baby items, boots and other supplies badly needed in Ukraine.
The country has been under attack from Russia for almost two weeks, causing more than a million refugees to cross into Poland and other neighboring nations for safety.
"When there is a crisis, you want to help out in any way you can," said Kim Lichtenstein of Port Washington, who spent a rainy Sunday morning helping collect and pack donations at the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center "Curb Your Mitzvah" drive in East Hills.
"There are lots of ways to monetarily contribute but I think I needed to put a physical connection to supporting the people of Ukraine," she said. "I looked for an opportunity where I could put my hands to work."
Lichtenstein said she was also able to involve her children by going together to pick up donations from neighbors and support local businesses by purchasing new items to donate.
"Watching the news last night, we felt horrible," said Nanci Fiore of New Hyde Park, who dropped off bags of clothes and other necessities. "People need things and we are fortunate here. We have a lot more than we need and it is important to bring whatever we could to help them."
Lindenhurst resident Suzie Bolger said she has been overwhelmed by the response she received to a simple post on social media asking anyone with donations to drop them off at the Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Church on North Fourth Street.
So many people wanted to help that she organized a donation drive event on Sunday at the church. Despite the on and off rain, the mood was upbeat and busy in the parking lot, which was decorated with blue and yellow balloons, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. A steady stream of people dropped off bags and boxes packed with boots, clothes, diapers, blankets, toiletries and other items. Dozens of volunteers inside and outside the church helped sort and organize the donations and then seal them in boxes.
"I’ve been a part of this church since I was a baby," said Bolger, whose grandparents left Ukraine before World War II. "These parishioners are family and about 90% of them have family overseas. You feel their pain. You see their pain."
Bolger said the Rev. Olvian Nicholas Popovici, administrator of the church, made arrangements for the items to be shipped to Chicago where two doctors will make sure they get on cargo planes for delivery to Europe.
The donations will be sent to Ukrainian churches, distributed to refugees and back to Ukraine to support people who could not leave, such as the elderly, mothers with newborn babies and those who stayed to fight.
Thirteen-year-old Veronica Fedoryshyn of West Babylon said she felt it was important to not only donate but volunteer to help sort and pack the donations.
"My father is from Ukraine and most of my family is over there," she said. "My mom is from Poland. We know a lot of kids, women and men need fresh clothes, diapers and things like that."
Joanne Albert of the Village of Babylon said she gathered together coats, clothes, pajamas — anything she could find that might help and brought them to the Lindenhurst church.
"When you see mothers and children and fathers pressing their hands against each other, knowing they might never ever see them again. … It’s just heartbreaking," she said.
At the East Hills drop-off site, Susan Berman, vice president of community engagement at Sid Jacobson JCC, said a truck and two vans were almost filled with donations less than two hours into the event.
"People feel helpless," she said. "They want to be able to do something as we are watching this in real time on the news and in social media."