Roaring Fork Valley shows up for Ukraine with $1 million raised
Carbondale-based Assist Ukraine has raised over $1M in direct aid
A local nonprofit has raised and spent over $1 million for Ukrainians in the battle fields, those who need medical assistance and the children who have been left behind as casualties of war.
The mission of Carbondale-based Assist Ukraine is to deliver medical supplies directly to the people who are in Ukraine defending their country, but in recent months, its reach has expanded to an orphanage established in the western part of the country.
Art Davidson, co-founder of Assist Ukraine, said the organization is working directly with territorial defender brigades and the biggest need in the field right now is satellite phones and radios.
At the outset of the invasion in February, the biggest need was helmets, flak jackets, tourniquets, Israeli bandages, quick-clot gauze and decompression needles that go into trauma medical kits and brought by volunteers onto the front lines for defenders.
Davidson said many of those items are still needed, but so is more technology for fighters so they can’t be tracked and support for the orphanage.
“The war is changing every day, the needs are changing, the direness of the situation is changing, the stress keeps changing,” he said of families being broken apart. “Our efforts have continued and increased in intensity and necessity.”
Davidson and his son Joe traveled to the region this past spring and connected with an individual who was able to secure a facility for an orphanage, where about 100 kids are now placed.
They have come from Bucha, which is near Kyiv, as well as Kharkiv, where some of the largest atrocities have occurred such as Ukrainians being lined up and shot in the back of the head in the middle of the street.
Here are a few ways to donate locally toward the Ukrainian crisis:
Mail a check payable to Assist Ukraine to Assist Ukraine, P.O Box 1740 Carbondale, CO 81623; or go to https://assist-ukraine.org/donate.html.
Uniters Foundation: https://uniters.org.pl/#o-nas
“We want to give them an education, an opportunity and hope,” Davidson said, adding that his son stayed at the orphanage for two-and-a-half months to help accept donations and work with the children. “We need sustained funding for the orphanage and create a safe place. If anyone wants to help some children, please get in touch.”
He said without the generosity of those in the Roaring Fork Valley, Assist Ukraine’s efforts wouldn’t have come to fruition to the extent that they have.
Davidson said one elderly woman called and said she didn’t trust the internet and wanted to donate her $50 and a used knee brace in person. Shortly after that connection, a local resident donated $20,000.
“I so appreciate the people of the Roaring Fork Valley,” he said. “Imagine if this was going on in the Roaring Fork Valley, wondering if a missile is going to hit Carbondale, or Willits or Glenwood?”
Davidson said having been on the ground, he has witnessed the organization’s efforts directly.
“The question we ask ourselves is, ‘Are we saving lives?’” he said. “We know it’s making a difference.”
With the guidance of Assist Ukraine and Uniters Foundation, Aspen City Councilman Ward Hauenstein in March went to Poland on a personal mission to deliver surveillance drones and medical aid supplies.
A day after he expressed interest in helping and was asked to make the personal delivery, Hauenstein booked and paid for the round-trip airfare to Warsaw, traveled 21 hours to Poland and left less than 72 hours later.
Davidson said at the time that if those drones had been shipped, they’d likely still be in a warehouse waiting for distribution.
After the Russian invasion, Assist Ukraine was formed by Anne Garrels, a longtime correspondent for National Public Radio and author of “Putin Country”; Heinz Coordes, a Vietnam fighter pilot who was awarded the Silver Star; Davidson, an author and businessman who organized relief for orphans of the Iraq war; and Irka Tkaczuk, a Ukrainian-American advocate.
They have three operating principles: ensure that what they supply is needed and respond to the priorities of Ukrainians on the front lines; ensure that every shipment of supplies reaches the people who need them as quickly as possible, and all critical materials are couriered to their intended destination; and make sure every cent of every donation is used to purchase needed supplies.
The founders personally cover all transportation, resourcing, logistics and other overhead costs.
“This is going to go on and on and we feel like we can do something,” Davidson said. “We’ve settled into long-term support for these kids.
“We want them to have safety, an education, love and encouragement. Giving them a life.”
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