DANBURY—Almost 400 boxes packed with medical supplies and essential daily items collected by the St. Joseph parish and school community, have arrived in Walbrzych, Poland to help Ukrainian refugees displaced from their war-ravaged country. “We never dreamed this drive would be so successful,” said Megan Cerullo, director of advancement for St. Joseph School, adding that the success of the donation drive increased the amount of time needed to process the items and secure transportation logistics.
In March, a request for donations of pre-filled new or gently used purses, diaper bags or backpacks with everyday essentials needed for women, babies and children, was met with an overwhelming response from the Greater Danbury community and beyond. Nearly two-thousand pre-filled donated bags were collected at the parish hall as word of the donation drive spread. School children were involved in helping to organize the bags and attached personal hand-written messages of encouragement for the bags’ recipients including, “Be strong,” and “With love and support from America.”
About nine tons of goods filled a shipping container and local company, Clancy Relocation & Logistics, played an integral role in readying the items for shipment. “Without hesitation, John Clancy donated our shipping boxes and manpower to help pack the container,” Cerullo said. “Although the drive became a more complex and lengthy undertaking due to the sheer volume of donations, all parties were able to pivot successfully to execute a flawless mission,” she said.
The Poland Municipal Social Welfare Center in Walbrzych, the initial recipient of the goods, partnered with the neighboring Orthodox Church of All Saints in Wałbrzych to help accept, store and distribute the items which arrived at the church in mid-June. Bags and personal care products were also driven directly into Ukraine and given to soldiers. “We did not even think this was possible but our amazing team of counterparts in Poland found a way,” Cerullo said. Monetary donations not only covered shipping fees but also allowed for an additional $8-thousand donation to cover costs such as food, formula and diapers. Funds were also allocated for summer camp for the Ukrainian refugee children now displaced in Poland.
Volunteers and workers in Poland shared their collective gratitude on behalf of Ukrainians, “We thank all children and adults from the heart for their help and support. For your letters, your wishes. Thank you for everything!” The community effort was welcomed by Governor Ned Lamont and Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs Thomas J. Saadi, who visited the Main Street parish with Ukrainian American veterans to witness first-hand the efforts by all involved.
Danbury Mayor Dean Esposito said he is proud of the efforts of the community. “I want to express my sincere gratitude to the City of Danbury and the greater community for their overwhelming support for this incredible work, and the dedication and commitment of the students, staff and parents of St. Joseph School and Parish to help support the citizens of Ukraine.”
St. Joseph Church Pastor Samuel V. Scott and St. Joseph School Principal Dr. Louis Howe both agreed the generosity and spirit of giving from the community is inspiring. “Jesus said, ‘Ask and you shall receive,’ these words cannot be any more true than what we have witnessed from our community brothers and sisters,” Howe said. “This was Christ’s mission in action.”