Niskayuna

‘Our hearts are breaking’: Niskayuna community rallies around Ukraine

Volunteer Alex Brennan, 10 of Niskayuna, collects money for tee-shirts from drivers as they collect medical supplies, fundraiser and tee-shirt sale to support the people of Ukraine at Niskayuna Town Hall in Niskayuna on Sunday.
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Volunteer Alex Brennan, 10 of Niskayuna, collects money for tee-shirts from drivers as they collect medical supplies, fundraiser and tee-shirt sale to support the people of Ukraine at Niskayuna Town Hall in Niskayuna on Sunday.

NISKAYUNA — Vince Daly is always looking for ways to give back to the community.

So when he heard a small group of community members was hosting a medical supply drive to benefit Ukraine on Sunday, he drove to CVS and Target and purchased $400 worth of supplies to donate, and then wrote a $100 check when he arrived to drop everything off.

“It almost makes me cry what they’re doing over there,” he said of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has displaced more than 1 million Ukrainians and has left scores more dead.

The drive at Niskayuna Town Hall was one of a series hosted by Ukrainian Catholic churches throughout the Capital Region to benefit the country since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale military invasion last month.

Putin’s actions have drawn swift condemnation and a series of hefty financial sanctions from the U.S. and its NATO allies, though Russian forces have shown no signs of withdrawing.

Town Board member Jessica Brennan helped organize the event alongside Dennis Plakas, a paramedic with the Niskayuna Fire Department, after a member of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church in Watervliet reached out looking for a place to hold the drive.

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“So many people in Niskayuna — our hearts are breaking,” Brennan said.

The donated items were set to be dropped off at St. Nicholas’ Sunday afternoon, which arranged plans for the items to be shipped overseas and dropped in an airfield in Poland, where they would then be delivered across the border to Ukraine, according to Brennan.

She said there was not expectations heading into the event, but thought the drive, which came together in just six days, was important to provide the community a safe place to be together during a difficult time.

But less than an hour after the event began, dozens of volunteers, including local Boy Scouts, police officers and firefighters, showed up to help, and the half a dozen boxes organizers had set up to collect donations were more than half full.

A trip to Lowe’s was being planned to purchase a dozen boxes as volunteers shuffled in and out of Town Hall dropping off bags full of items, including gauze, band aids and various antibiotic creams.

Others showed up to purchase a T-shirt benefiting Ukraine or to drop off monetary donations and snacks for volunteers.

“This community is amazing,” Brennan said. “We have so many people who want to help and they have their own way of doing it, whether they have money they want to donate, whether they have time to volunteer, whether they come to make a poster.”

Just outside Town Hall, Mary Fidell made her way between vehicles, grabbing bags full of donated items out of car windows before passing them off to other volunteers.

“I’m just so upset by this whole catastrophic event,” she said. “I just feel like I need to help them. I just hope I can.”

Plakas, meanwhile, said the drive is an example of what happens when a community sets their differences aside and rallies around a common cause.

“I believe we can all contribute in our small way to help out a humanitarian cause,” he said. “It’s not about politics. It’s about people.”

For more information on local efforts to support Ukraine, visit: 518ukrainians.com.

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.  

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