Putnam County Fundraiser for Ukrainian Refugees

Putnam County government is teaming up with members of the local Polish Community to send food, supplies, medicine and monetary donations to help the millions of Ukrainian refugees who have taken shelter in Poland.

A Mother's Day Weekend collection drive for the much-needed supplies will be held Friday, May 6 through Sunday, May 8 at the Paladin Center, 39 Seminary Hill Road, Carmel. Volunteers and deputies from the Putnam County Sheriff's Department will help organize the supplies and pack them into shipping crates to be sent to a city in Poland near the Ukrainian border.

The Russian assault on Ukraine created the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. Over 4 1/2 million people fled Ukraine escaping the atrocities of the war. Many remain in neighboring countries, stretching their resources thin. In Poland, almost 3 million Ukrainian refugees, mostly women and children, are relying on the help of Polish citizens and organizations supporting them. Through this charitable effort, Putnam County residents can donate specific medical and other essential supplies directly to the refugees.

"We can't just sit back and watch a country be destroyed and its citizens displaced and not offer to help," Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said. "Poland is doing its share. Putnam County residents want to help, too. Our collection drive is Mother's Day Weekend, and there is no better time to think about and support all the mothers and children of Ukraine who have been driven from their homes."

Thomas Lannon, Director of the county's Information, Technology & GIS Department made a website for the event that shows which supplies are needed, a link for medical supplies, where to donate money and how to volunteer your time. See: putnamcountycares.com/ukraineaid/

Neal L. Sullivan, Chair of the Putnam County Legislature, represents parts of Mahopac that have a big Eastern European population. He called Sylwia Wojcik, a Mahopac resident and native of Poland, to see what the community needed.

Wojcik and neighbor Karolina Zaba previously helped to gather things for their friend's supply drive. They started soon after the war began and had sent a 600-pound box of diapers, formula, over-the- counter medicines and sanitary supplies for the refugees. Shipping heavy supplies overseas is not cheap. The two were fortunate to find a company to pay for the box to be sent by air.

"Using the county's extensive networks and the megaphone of county government gives us an opportunity to do a lot of good," Sullivan said. "We have the ability to connect the local group with donors and not-for-profits who have experience in fundraising and shipping. And we have the ability to publicize the supply drive and fundraiser. I know that Putnam residents will turn out for this event."

Wojcik, who works as a personal assistant has used her organizational skills to set up the event. She said she is grateful for the county's help.

The list of items needed ranges from diapers, formula and other baby needs, to sanitary supplies for women and snack items like juice boxes and energy bars for children. Also needed are shampoo, toothpaste and over-the-counter pain medicines like Tylenol, etc.

A Putnam County Amazon page has been set up for people to purchase medical supplies directly.

Monetary donations are especially welcome. Wojcik recommends these three organizations:

"It's so hard to watch from a distance," Wojcik said. "Doing this makes me feel useful. The Polish people have opened their homes to the Ukrainians. They are housing refugees, feeding them, trying to get their children into schools. It's not for a week or two. It's going to be for a very long time."

Thomas Lannon, Director of the county's Information, Technology & GIS Department made a website for the event, see: putnamcountycares.com/ukraineaid/

Putnam County Sheriff Kevin McConville noted that Putnam deputies are highly skilled at organizing mass events and would be happy to help during the weekend-long supply drive. McConville reached out to the New York State Fraternal Order of Police, which graciously agreed to serve as the 501(c)(3) organization handling the donations so that individuals and organizations who are able to make large donations, like the cost of shipping, will be able to receive a tax deduction.

"The Sheriff's Department will be on hand to provide whatever assistance is needed," McConville said. "Helping the community in a time of need is what we do. In this case, we're helping local residents and the international community."

Mother's Day Weekend is the perfect time for a humanitarian effort, particularly one that is helping mothers and children and the families who are supporting them.

"This year, along with buying flowers for Mom, Putnam residents might consider donating to one of the organizations that is helping refugees," County Executive Odell said. "As a mother myself, I know a donation to those in need will make any mother proud."

For the list of ways to donate and items needed see: putnamcountycares.com/ukraineaid/
For more information on Putnam County, see putnamcountyny.com