Atlantans seeing many needs as they reach out to help Ukrainians

Ken Ward doles out 2022 special-edition United States quarters to Ukrainians he meets on his way to deliver generators, blankets and wood-burning stoves to hospitals and others hurting from the country’s 300-plus day war with Russia.

“I want them to know “that in 2022 you are not alone. We are with you,” said Ward, who lives in Rome in northwest Georgia.

Ward is a volunteer with HelpingUkraine.U.S., an organization formed earlier this year by businessman and former Gwinnett County state Rep. Emory Morsberger.

The group has raised several hundred thousand dollars for Ukrainian relief and worked with Tucker-based Friends of Disabled Adults and Children (FODAC) to deliver more than $1 million worth of medical equipment to the region, Morsberger said.

Chris Brand, president and CEO of FODAC, said members of the group have been able to parlay their individual contacts with Rotary International and other organizations to obtain discounted rates on shipping and equipment purchases. These contacts also are helping to ensure that all packages arrive safely and are not sold on the black market, he said.

“We are really connected throughout the whole world, and that is making a huge difference,” Brand said.

The three held a press briefing Thursday to discuss Ukraine’s needs and their efforts to help.

Morsberger officially started working on aid to Ukraine after he was asked by Brand to oversee the delivery of a supply of medical equipment from FODAC last June.

The Ukrainians he met “were incredible people,” Morsberger said. “When I got home, I wanted to do more than just talk about it, pray about it or write a check.”

The group’s goal is “to keep this going and growing and serve a whole lot of people who need our help,” he said.

To date, the organization has focused its efforts on 10 villages in southern and eastern Ukraine, including Kherson and Mykolaiv, and 14-plus hospitals scattered throughout the country.

Shipments to hospitals have included incubators and state-of-the-art surgical drills. The drills can operate without electricity, a common problem for many of the country’s hospitals, Brand said. The incubators are there to help babies who have been moved from hospitals to underground shelters to escape the fighting.

Ward said that when he went to Ukraine, he found people living in houses where one side of the house had blown off. He said he and others were able to make what was left standing airtight and put in heaters to help occupants survive the hard winters there.

Scrap metal from the shipyards of Odessa have been made into wood-burning stoves at two factories that have been built with the help from several churches and a congressman, Ward said.

He is able to buy some of those stoves for $140 and install them in homes where people are without electricity. He said it was heartwarming to go back to one of the homes where he’d just installed the stove and potatoes boiling.

The homeowner had run outside, gathered brush, and got cooking.

“That just brought tears to my eyes,” Ward said, “and motivated me and the team to keep going. That’s why I’m going back next week.”

To find out more or to donate go to HelpingUkraine.US.

Credit: Special to The AJC

Credit: Special to The AJC