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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Community rallies to “Fill a Plane for Ukraine” 

by Garrett Fodor

Despite being separated by nearly 8000 kilometres, local businesses, individuals, and members of the community came together last week to support the people of Ukraine by donating necessities through the Leamington-based “Fill a Plane for Ukraine” donation drive.

  With the events unfolding in Eastern Europe, a group of local people band together to accept donations to help the people of Ukraine. As thousands of people are displaced from their homes and in need, organizers of the local donation drive spotted a need for simple household materials and supplies, and put out a call to the community to pitch-in what they could to help.

  “On March 1, my friend Mandi Quiring texted me last week. Her dad was from the Ukraine and Poland area, and wanted to do something to help. [She] approached me to help her get in touch with people and launch the campaign,” Mike Diab said, one of the organizers for the “Fill a Plane for Ukraine” campaign. He is known for his charitable efforts within Leamington and Essex County, along with his wife, Deanna. “We made a couple phone calls. And ever since we kicked off the campaign, the community response has been incredible. There has been an outpouring of support and generosity.” 

  Diab and other volunteers quickly established four main drop-off points throughout Leamington, which received and sorted the donations for a one-week period. Donations began to pour into the drop-off areas on March 3, and organizers continued to accept items until March 8, in order to get them to Ukraine shortly after. 

  Diab noted that following conversations with the Ukrainian consulate, they created a list of items they were looking to collect, from sleeping bags to first-aid kits and toiletries, to flashlights and adult clothing. He said that as organizers started to receive the donations, they began to alter their list in order to better address the needs as they saw them.

  While collecting and boxing up the donations, Diab described the emotions of everyone who volunteered. He said they were in disbelief that the Russian invasion was happening and they shared the raw emotion they all felt about the situation. 

  Following the collection phase, the goods were sorted and boxed up. Diab noted the donations are going to be shipped from Leamington, courtesy of a truck donated by De Goey’s Flowers, to Toronto. From there, the goods will be flown to Ukraine by MEEST Canada, where the items will be distributed to those in need. 

  “This is humanitarian aid. This is life saving stuff. Millions of people in the Ukraine have been displaced, walking away from their homes, and it’s hard to imagine,” Diab described. “So many people and businesses have stepped up to help us and so many have even gone as far to purchase items specifically for the cause. It’s things we take for granted, but the people of Ukraine are asking for and needed specifically.”

  While at the time of publishing, Diab noted they were still collecting and sorting materials, however, he estimated several hundred pounds worth of donated materials were collected through the cause. In addition, local businesses donated several thousands of dollars worth of clothing, including winter boots.

  Diab thanked the community partners and everyone who donated and supported the campaign.


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