As Russian forces continue to pummel Ukraine’s power grid, people in the war-torn country are bracing for a long, cold winter.
To help bring some needed warmth, volunteers and fire departments across the North Shore are launching a blanket and warm clothing drive.
From now until Dec. 18, the organizers are calling on residents to bring donations to any of the local fire halls, or to contribute cash going toward the international shipment.
Dubbed Project Frozen, the drive aims to fill a 40-foot container with around 3,000 unit equivalents – either a jacket or blanket – and fund the $15,000 trip, which includes shipping the container as well as truck rentals along the way.
Jared Reynolds, a District of North Vancouver firefighter and Afghanistan war veteran, said the idea for the drive came to him after recently returning from another mission where he personally transported around 160 kilograms of medical equipment to Kraków, Poland (bound for Ukraine) via civilian air travel.
“When I was over at the border a little under a month ago, the amount of people that were not dressed appropriately was shocking,” Reynolds said, urging citizens here to donate whatever they can during the project’s tight, two-week timeline.
“We’re asking anyone who has blankets, jackets, kids ski gear, anything warm to just bring it to any of the North Shore fire stations,” he added.
The initiative launched with the North Vancouver District, but now the City of North Vancouver and District of West Vancouver are on board as well, meaning you can make donations at any North Shore fire hall by Dec. 18, with the packed supplies on their way to Ukraine a few days after that.
“This is a way that we can make a huge impact,” Reynolds said. If you don’t have any items to donate, the effort is receiving financial donations – and tax receipts – via the DNV Fire Charity or Defend Ukraine Foundation websites.
Brent Mudry of Defend Ukraine Foundation, which is partnered in the current project and has led a number of large supply missions this year, said he’s confident the donation targets can be met. But if not, they have a fall-back plan of putting the supplies on a upcoming shipment with another aid group.
“Large areas of the country are either intermittently or completely without power,” said Mudry, noting that daytime temperatures hover around freezing and can dip to -10 C at night.
“We squawk if our power’s out for a day or two – there it’s continual,” he said.
With winter conditions stretching through April, there’s a high probability that thousands of people will freeze to death, Mudry continued.
Apart from individual support, he hopes that businesses, corporate sponsors and other charities get involved in the drive as well.