Ways to get involved with efforts to help Ukraine here and abroad
By Jamie Organski
Adirondackers are opening their homes and raising funds to assist Ukrainians as their country is assaulted by Russian troops.
When the war started two months ago, Saratoga Springs native David Kelley said he wasn’t sure how to help, but felt compelled to take action.
He created a “Hike for Ukraine Challenge,” in which 100-percent of the proceeds are donated to the World Central Kitchen (WCK). The WCK serves meals to Ukrainian families and refugees across Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Moldova, and Hungary.
“I had previously organized a few fundraising challenges, and thought this would be an ideal opportunity to encourage folks to help feed those affected by the war while also prompting people to get outdoors and stay active for a great cause,” Kelley said.
Participants are asked to complete one hike, walk, bike, ski, trail run, or paddle on their own time, with friends or solo.
About 30 people have signed up for the challenge since it went live a few weeks ago, Kelley said.
“The challenge has been well received by people of all ages,” he said. “It is suitable for all abilities ranging from 46ers who want to hike up Mount Marcy to those who wish to take a stroll through a local nature preserve.”
How to help
The suggested registration fee is $15, although any amount is welcome. Participants receive a Hike for Ukraine patch and sticker, as well as entry into the online roster. Donations may also be made by mailing a check to David’s mother Darrice Kelley at 2 Mallard Landing, Saratoga Springs, NY, 12866.
‘Boots on the ground’
Born and raised in Raquette Lake, Rebecca Pohl, whose family has owned and operated Raquette Lake Navigation for 32 years, is a high school guidance counselor who has traveled the world. Currently on her third passport, Pohl previously worked in Mexico and China before signing on as a counselor for high school students in Warsaw, Poland.
When war erupted in Ukraine, Pohl opened up the spare room of her apartment to host a mother and daughter in need of shelter during the first week of March.
“Everyone I know is helping, and I have a spare room, so of course I decided to offer to host,” Pohl said. “My colleague’s neighbor is Russian, and she knew a mother/daughter who needed a place to stay, and that’s how I got my first guests, Iryna and Oxana…My next guests were Natasha and [her] daughter Masha.”
As of April 23, Pohl – working with volunteers in Poland and back home – has helped raise approximately $43,000 to assist those affected by the war in Ukraine. Donations range from $20 to $1,000, and so far around $31,000 has been distributed.
Raquette River Brewing of Tupper Lake created a European-style ale and will donate all funds (an estimated couple thousand dollars) from its sale to Pohl’s efforts.
“The outpouring of support has been incredible, and I feel honored that so many people have put their trust and faith in me,” Pohl said. “It’s a huge responsibility, and I spend a lot of energy finding out what is needed, getting it there, and making sure that it is used appropriately,” she said.
In addition to housing those in need, Pohl has worked with a slew of volunteers, coordinators, and activists to ensure the needs of Ukrainian refugees are being met. Using funds her mom and sister deposit into her bank account, Pohl buys things such as hygiene products, medical equipment, backpacks, school supplies, groceries and other necessities.
Hygiene kits consist of a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, sanitary supplies, mask, hand sanitizer and more, Pohl said. They are given out as refugees enter the temporary housing set up on the Polish side of the border, she said.
Pohl also sent funds to a Central Train Station coordinator for refugee accommodation, transportation, groceries and medical charcoal, which was needed after a food poisoning incident that affected a number of refugees, she said.
Pohl’s mother Donna Pohl said she believes growing up in a close-knit Adirondack town has helped to shape Rebecca into the humanitarian she is today.
“This is what Adirondack people do,” she said. “When someone needs help, they come running. Rebecca is a believer in helping those who need it, and she is a very determined girl.”— Donna Pohl, about her daughter Rebecca Pohl
Donna Pohl continues: “When she was 14 years old, she bicycled across the nation from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. When I asked her how she managed it she said, ‘I did not look at the top, I just looked at the next telephone pole.’ She is fearless.”
One of Rebecca’s students, Pedro Piñera from Durango, Mexico, came to work for Raquette Lake Navigation one summer, Donna said. When Rebecca caught word that Pedro was looking for help applying to colleges, she booked an interview with her alma mater, the University of Rochester. Pedro received a full scholarship and is now working as an architect.
“That is what Rebecca does, she makes a difference in children’s lives, and it’s why she went into the international education field,” Donna said. “[In Poland] Rebecca is the boots on the ground. The needs are constantly changing and Rebecca is right there with them so she can ask what they need and make it happen.”
How to help
Want to get involved? Here’s how to contribute:
- Donate to the American School of Warsaw (ASW) Foundation
- Donate to one of the organizations recommended by Pechersk School International in Kyiv
- Funds sent to the Pohl family (listed below) will go directly to Ukrainians and will be used toward efforts that Rebecca learns about in Poland.
- Rachel Pohl (Rebecca’s sister) via Venmo: Rachel-Pohl-6 (confirmation code 5253)
- Donna Pohl (Rebecca’s mom) via PayPal: [email protected]
- Check (from a US bank only) to: Donna Pohl, PO Box 100, Raquette Lake, NY 13436
Is there anything you’d add to this list? Leave a comment below!