As Russia expands its invasion of Ukraine, North Shore residents have taken action to provide resources to Ukrainians through grassroots efforts.
Russian forces, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, carried out missile and artillery attacks on major Ukrainian cities, including the capital, Kiev, forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee. As the war continues, two local activists discussed their efforts to aid the at-risk Ukrainians.
Port Washington’s Jeff Stone and Kathy Levinson are the leaders of Project H.E.L.P. Long Island. While their local efforts provide Long Island families with education and awareness on mental health, they said the developments abroad compelled them to provide aid.
Stone and Levinson also have connections with various Kiwanis organizations and said they are collecting funds to distribute to a variety of international organizations, including UNICEF, Save the Children and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The funds, Stone said, will be wired to those agencies to provide Ukrainian refugees with resources to survive.
Stone also said he and Levinson, along with help from the community, collected baby strollers, onesies, coats, jackets and other clothes at the Presbyterian Church in Garden City for Ukrainian refugees.
“We’re trying to circulate and create awareness on what is going on to hopefully motivate people to develop their own plan of action or to contribute with clothing,” Stone said in a phone interview.
“We truly believe that one person can make a difference even though some people get so overwhelmed and ask ‘What can I do?’” Levinson said. “This is truly happening and unfolding right in front of our eyes in real time.”
Adam Haber, a former Roslyn school board member and previous candidate for county executive, said he has volunteered with the organization All Hands All Hearts, which aids in repairing communities throughout the world that have been struck by disasters. Haber said the organization deployed a team to Poland to help the at-risk population impacted by the invasion.
The group is taking donations through a link on its website, https://give.allhandsandhearts.org/give/394859/#!/donation/checkout, where people can help fund the resources being provided by the ground team aiding adults, children, orphans and others whose lives are at risk.
A group of Manhasset students has raised nearly $50,000 to provide everyday resources such as cleaning products, blankets, mattresses and clothing to the at-risk Ukrainian population. Junior Max Majewski and senior Alex Mlotkowski created a GoFundMe on Feb. 28 that outlined the efforts they, and others, have made to aid Ukrainian families that crossed the Polish border.
The donations, they said, will be split between a group of 40 women and children that arrived in Poland and other not-for-profit organizations to enhance refugee efforts.
“The long-term goal is to set the kids up in school and offer assistance to help find work,” the GoFundMe read. “All donations raised will be used to purchase necessities locally, we will have direct contact and impact on these families, and we’ll be able to view their progress.”
The Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center in East Hills hosted a “Curb Your Mitzvah” drive on Sunday, collecting clothing, boots and necessities for babies. Officials said the community support resulted in a U-Haul truck being filled to capacity with donations along with two vans being filled with medical supplies.
“Thank you to everyone who donated needed supplies for the people of Ukraine yesterday and all of our volunteers who helped in sorting donations,” a post from the JCC’s Facebook page said.
Last week, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman announced a gun drive for Ukrainian citizens and called on President Joe Biden to help provide weapons to citizens fighting for their lives.
“Just watching the Ukrainian residents making Molotov cocktails in a brewery out of beer bottles shows they’re in a desperate flight and we can’t stand by and do nothing,” Blakeman said at a news conference. “We are doing our job here in Nassau County, I am asking President Biden to do his job and help get these weapons to Ukraine immediately to those who desperately need them.”
Blakeman, along with U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Glen Cove Mayor Pam Panzenbeck previously pledged support for Ukraine after the invasion, with some urging Biden to close the Killenworth estate, a compound in Glen Cove used by Russian diplomats to the United Nations.
In 2016, President Barack Obama’s administration ordered a Russian-owned mansion in Brookville, which was described by the U.S. government as a “recreational compound,” to be closed in late December due to Russia’s interference in the presidential election. Since then, 35 diplomats were expelled while the Killenworth estate itself was unaffected. It remains a Russian property that does not pay property taxes.
“President Biden, expel these Russians from Nassau County,” Blakeman said. “We don’t need them here and let’s get this property back on the tax rolls so the people of Nassau County and Glen Cove don’t have to finance thugs and dictators and people who invade innocent countries.”
It is unclear if the U.S. government has legal grounds to act on Blakeman’s wishes.
Lavine also announced he will join the Ukrainian Americans of Long Island for a humanitarian collection drive for the at-risk population, saying that items such as clothing, dental floss, toothpaste, mouthwash, soap, hand sanitizer, female hygienic products, shampoo, razors and toilet paper are some of the most-needed items.
“I am in awe of the courage the Ukrainian civilians have shown in protecting their country and defending it from tyranny. It is now time for us as Americans to do our part to support them,” Lavine said.
Donations can be dropped off at Lavine’s district office at 1 School Street #303-B in Glen Cove from Monday to Friday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.