Newmarket resident Dean Zdriluk said he was glued to his screens in horror when Russia invaded Ukraine.
A man of Ukrainian descent, he said he reached out to friends and others to find something he could do to help. That eventually led to the start of the Canadians for Ukrainian Relief, a small, locally based group that has gathered more than 50 boxes and more than $2,000 over two weeks for humanitarian aid through the shipping company Meest.
“I’ll be doing drives until the war ends or I die,” Zdriluk said.
The group has set up near the Upper Canada Mall the past couple of weekends, waving Ukrainian flags in the parking lot looking for donations. Donations of medical and other supplies are being transported to a warehouse owned by Meest, an Etobicoke-based Ukrainian shipping company offering free shipping for humanitarian packages to Ukraine.
Katarina Tkaczyszyn, a Mississauga native who has joined with the initiative, said her family is glad her grandparents living in Ukraine had passed on, so they did not need to see this war.
She said this is a way to show solidarity and show others they can also be helpers.
“In that way, it’s something to do for comfort on our end as well,” Tkaczysyzn said.
It is one of several ongoing initiatives by area residents and businesses to get donations to Ukraine. A local popcorn seller is donating bags sold to the Red Cross, while a Bradford author is donating book sales to help a Ukrainian family fleeing from the war.
Tkacyzsyn said the number of small campaigns could hamper knowledge of where to donate. But she said she hopes positioning themselves out in public and having conversations with people can stir support.
“We’re set up where people can see us,” she said. “It brings it to the forefront.”
“We’ve had all kinds of people,” Zdriluk said. “Everyone coming out and pouring their love and support to help the people of Ukraine.”
The group said they plan to keep up their efforts to do their part to support Ukrainians.
“We’re doing what we can,” Zdriliuk said.
The group is asking for donations of medical supplies, including first-aid kits, as well as hygiene products, non-perishables, sleeping bags, flashlights and stuffed animals. You can connect with the group through its Facebook page, or donate monetarily through Paypal.