The Examiner

Pleasantville Rotary Raising Money to Help Ukrainian Refugees

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As the world watches the war in Ukraine, there is a growing sense of urgency felt by many individuals and organizations to help Ukrainian refugees fleeing their homes. The Pleasantville Rotary Club last week launched an effort called the Ukrainian Relief Fund with the goal of raising $10,000 in 10 days. In the first five days of the drive, $6,000 was collected.

“When the crisis and war in Ukraine broke out, we were overwhelmed with so many feelings,” said Henry Leyva, president of Pleasantville Rotary Club. “But we quickly knew we needed to do something.”

Funds are being sent to a sister club in Poland, which is ground zero for humanitarian efforts as Ukrainians pour into that country. Receiving the funds from Pleasantville via Rotary International is the Rotary Club of Giżycko, which is working with clubs in Ukraine and six other Polish rotaries. Giżycko is a town in northeastern Poland about 250 miles from the Ukrainian border.

Leyva, along with Pleasantville Rotary’s 28 other members, reached out to Rotary International, a global charitable organization with about 1.2 million members in some 36,000 clubs around the world.

“Rotary International provided a few different options of how to help,” Leyva said. “When we decided to create the relief fund it was at a member lunch and three members separately said they would donate $500 to get us started.”

Pleasantville Rotary recruited the help of a new member, tech-savvy Andy Sullivan, to create the relief fund website for donations. Sullivan, who has also been a Pleasantville Music Festival volunteer, set up the site with links to social media.

Leyva said the club sent out an e-mail blast to its large mailing list that included attendees from their popular annual fundraiser, Hudson Valley Fermented.

“There was a definite uptick in donations after that and from posts on social media,” he said. “The messages from folks donating to the Rotary relief fund said donating through us was like boots on the ground to get aid directly to people who needed it.”

Dealing with Rotary International also comes with a level of trust.

“I’m sending money to a Rotary in Poland that international Rotary has vetted,” Leyva said.

Funds going to the Rotary Club of Gizycko will be used to purchase and transport supplies such as food for young children, hygiene products, disposable diapers, generators, solar-powered power banks to recharge electronics and walkie-talkies. The supplies will be brought to the Poland-Ukraine border where members of Rotary clubs in Ukraine will take the supplies to those in need.

The Ukrainian Relief Fund website is receiving donations as long as the war continues, Leyva said.

“We’d rather get the money late than not get the money at all, and as long as people donate, we will forward the money to Poland,” he said.

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