Only days after announcing that it was collecting new items for Ukrainian refugees, Grosse Pointe Woods had received scores of needed goods, including winter coats, blankets, diapers, baby food and personal care products.
Photo by K. Michelle Moran
Collection boxes are placed in the Grosse Pointe Woods Community Center and Public Safety Department so that donations can be dropped off during and after regular weekday business hours.
Photo by K. Michelle Moran
GROSSE POINTE WOODS — As they flee from their war-ravaged homeland to find safety in neighboring countries like Poland and Romania, Ukrainian refugees make the long, dangerous trek to border crossings often with only the clothes on their backs.
While kind strangers are opening their homes to these refugees, their basic needs remain great, as they have to start over from scratch. Moved by the plight of Ukrainians driven from their homes by invading Russian troops, Grosse Pointe Woods officials are making it possible for Woods residents to help.
Woods City Administrator Frank Schulte said the Woods City Council voted unanimously March 7 in favor of collecting specific items for the refugees at Woods City Hall. The collection, which started March 9, is for new items only: winter jackets and sweaters for women and children, children’s clothing for all ages, blankets, hats, gloves, towels, diapers, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, soap, shampoo, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, nonperishable food items, baby food, baby bottles, baby wipes, Tylenol, children’s vitamins, foil blankets, pajamas, underwear, boots and backpacks.
“They were all for it,” Schulte said of the council. “They were very excited that they could help out.”
The Woods collection was the brainchild of Schulte’s wife, Betsy Schulte, who is the director of volunteers at Beaumont Hospital, Grosse Pointe, and Beaumont Hospital, Troy. She said she wanted to do something to aid the refugees and has been working with Beaumont officials to see what the hospital can contribute. She said she discovered the Ukrainian-American Crisis Response Committee of Michigan — an informal association of groups and individuals that assembled to address the crisis in Ukraine — and learned that it could get donated goods to Ukrainian refugees who have fled to Poland.
“They are willing to pick up items,” Betsy Schulte said. “They have contacts in Poland.”
She said that the Ukrainian-American Crisis Response Committee of Michigan has large trucks and can pick up donated goods from drop-off sites, after which they will sort through, label, package and ship those items to Poland, where refugees will be able to select whatever items they need.
There are two drop boxes at Woods City Hall: The one in the Woods Community Center is available for donations between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, while the one in the Public Safety Department is available after 5 p.m. and on weekends.
“Grosse Pointe Woods is doing a great job starting this donation process to help the refugees,” Betsy Schulte said. “The Grosse Pointe community could really make a big impact.”
She said the Grosse Pointe Public School System also is working on a plan to collect donations, although details hadn’t been finalized at press time.
Within days of announcing the collection, the Woods had gotten scores of donations, with those items quickly filling up a conference room being used to temporarily store them. Frank Schulte said the collection has been going “very well so far.”
“We got a lot of phone calls and some emails” after the city sent out an e-blast to residents, he said.
Frank Schulte said that because the city has limited space for the donated items, the city can only accept things from Grosse Pointe Woods residents. He said he’s been talking to other city leaders in the community who might establish collection sites in their cities. Churches and other organizations can host collections, too, and some congregations in metro Detroit have already done this.
“We were the leaders (in the Pointes), but others can pick up the torch and run with it,” Frank Schulte said.
Ukraine might be far away and the tragedy there overwhelming, but as this and other collections show, there are ways local residents can lend a hand.
“Look for the helpers,” said Betsy Schulte, quoting children’s television icon Mr. Rogers. “There’s always something you can do.”
At press time, the end date for the Woods collection was March 27, but it could be extended.
“We’re going to take it one step at a time,” Frank Schulte said. “The need is going to be there for a long time.”
For more information about the Grosse Pointe Woods collection, visit www.gpwmi.us. For more information about setting up a fundraiser or collection site, visit www.uacrisisresponse.org.