Area residents send vital items to Ukraine orphans

by Chris Studor

Winter coats by the hundreds, pallets of vinegar for sanitation, medical supplies, dolls, small toys and even three washing machines are among the thousands of items two Medina County women have collected and sent to the Ukraine in the months since Russia invaded.

Irene Terry of Hinckley and Lynda Bowers of Medina are the two local powerhouses behind the undertaking. For this pair,  no request is too hard to fill when it comes to those on the receiving end – more than 300 children, including 40 infants, living in a makeshift orphanage in the midst of the war-torn nation. All of the children living there have been orphaned since the fighting began this past February.

Terry and Bowers say they met recently when Terry made a real estate inquiry of Bowers, who owns Pro Edge Realty of Medina.

“The two of us got to talking and the first thing you know, Lynda was pulling these homemade dolls out of her trunk which are sent to places like St. Jude and, recently, Uvalde, Texas, where the school shooting took place,” Terry said. “She told me we could have dolls sent to the girls in the orphanage.”

The dolls are made by a volunteer group called The Giving Doll (thegivingdoll.org) and each doll comes with its own blanket and bag. The dolls are never sold and are only donated to those in need.

“I asked how many girls were in the orphanage and soon we were sending each of them a doll,” Terry added. “Lynda and I became a team because we each had resources to draw from in filling the endless needs of the orphans.”

Irene, who is of Ukrainian decent, has a cousin, Dorota Ochocinska, who lives in Warsaw, Poland, who serves as the go-between. She receives the shipments of donated goods from Medina County, which are then taken orphanage.

Ochocinska also uses the financial donations from the United States and beyond to help purchase larger items that can no longer be found in Ukraine but can be purchased in Poland and has them transported to the orphanage as well.

Terry explained that the children were brought to the camp by a local priest, the Rev. Vasyl, and his wife, who traveled to orphanages in Mykolw, Kharkiv and several other towns in the early days of the war knowing that the communities were being bombed and the lives of children who lived there were in danger.

With so many relatives in the Ukraine who regularly inform her of the items most needed in the area, Terry said when she first started donating to the cause, she sent items to big-name charities.  Once she was able to make contact with her cousin in Poland, however, she discovered she could send things directly to Ochocinska, knowing the items would be taken directly to the orphanage and the children in need.

Terry says a donation of $10 can feed an infant for a month.

“The volunteers are doing their best with what little they have,” she said. “It is not like it is here in America where food and clothing are plentiful for most. For instance, recently I saw a video of a barbeque they were having over a campfire and the barbeque sticks were filled with squash. About once a week there is chicken.”

With the need so great, Bowers has formed a Facebook page, Dorota’s Orphans, and just recently started a GoFundMe page at https://gofund.me/939c2980. She said she and Terry are already working on the next list of needed items.

While donated items are always appreciated, with shipping to Poland at $1.50 a pound, financial donations are doubly welcome. Terry said it takes $200 to buy 20 liters of milk, which gives each child one glass of milk for two days.

“The doctors in the Ukraine have no supplies, even the basics are needed,” Bowers explained. “We both have made contacts with some local doctors, dentists and medical organizations willing to help.”

“With winter approaching, we are both worried about conditions at the orphanage since it was only meant to be a summer camp,” Terry added. “We have ladies at assisted living facilities who are now knitting hats, scarves and mittens like crazy for the orphans and it reminds them of the projects they did during World War II to support the troops.” ∞

Photo:Fr. Vasyl and his wife and volunteers who are taking care of 300 orphans at what was a children’s’ summer camp now called Dorata’s Orphanage. Donations are sent to Poland then transferred, by night by volunteers, to the orphanage. Photo submitted.