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Happy to Be Here: When people were asked, donations multiplied

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Theresa Johns-Vallone’s story is a lesson in marketing. For weeks, she’s been planning an event to collect donations to help Ukrainian people. Through contacts in her neighborhood and through the internet she is ready for a “Drive & Drop” event on Saturday, May 7. She’s looking for new medical and trauma products and she’s thought of just about all the possibilities as sources for the products.

She’s registered two gift lists on Amazon.com and she’s arranged through Amazon to have donations sent directly to her. The medical support products are under Theresa Johns, Ukraine donations, custom gift list link; and products for tactical support are under Theresa Johns-Vallone Donations supporting Ukraine, custom gift list. Theresa’s home has been a collection site for new item donations of all kinds for humanitarian aid to Ukraine since the beginning of March. “All of the donations are filtered into different Ukrainian sources here and then shipped to Western Ukraine,” she said. The first contact for her latest mission started in March. “I received an email from Paul Berman and Alina Fish, owners of Action Physical Therapy in Huntingdon Valley,  with a request to support their humanitarian aid new item donation drive,” she said.

She read over the list of needs, bought many items herself, and delivered them to the Ukrainian Education and Cultural Center (UECC) in Jenkintown. Around the same time, she received an invitation to join nextdoor.com. “I had never used social media before,” she said, but now she had a contact list. “I sent an email out to everyone on my email contact list about the project. Many of my friends and family responded,” she said. She’s a caregiver, so she included her clients. “I wanted to give everyone the same opportunity that was given to me.” One of her contacts belongs to the Rotary Foundation and that contact asked for more information. She began accepting donationa at her home. She collected enough donations to fill her Ford Explorer.

“When I went to drop them off to Action Physical Therapy; I was advised to drop off directly to UECC because of the volume of what I had collected. I drove to the UECC and was inspired by the amount of people helping to carry, sort, and box everything.” “I posted an appeal for humanitarian aid for Ukraine on nextdoor.com and an auto response censored me for political conversation and advised me to start a group. So I did.”

Now, at Neighbors Helping Ukraine, she started posting information about the new item drive. She put signs out front of her house especially for dog walkers. Then she bought a big blue donation collection can, and hung a wreath with a Ukrainian theme to attract notice.

“When the UECC paused taking donations, I found another source. By March 17 the donations were steadily coming to me.” She drove to the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee in Philadelphia to drop off donations. On nextdoor.com she saw a posting from Pastor Vadym Kondratyuk of Living Streams Church of Huntingdon Valley. Kondratyuk was appealing for medical supplies. She posted an appeal online with a list of items for collection. “During our conversations Pastor Vadym asked me my opinion on how to collect more items than his congregation could provide,” she said. Theresa suggested the Drive & Drop event.

Meanwhile, more people started contacting Theresa about Ukrainian humanitarian aid and she had made many friends. She met Protopriest Taras Naumenko of the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral Saint Vladimir in Philadelphia, which was also collecting donations. His congregation is involved in sponsoring families from Ukraine to come to the United States. “So some of the donations they are collecting will be going to support Ukrainian families to start their lives here,” Theresa said.

Explaining her interest in helping Ukrrainians, she said, ”My mom and aunt were both nurses, my Aunt Eleanor was a Catholic missionary nun,” she said. ”My aunt taught me the importance of people and doing the Lord’s work.” The “Drive & Drop” event that Theresa has planned will be held in front of her house, 3 Home Road, Hatboro, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 7. It will target medical and trauma products. “We will accept monetary donations made with a check made out to: Living Streams Church. Electronic monetary donations can be made on any of the websites that I have posted on nextdoor.com.” The products will be distributed to both Pastor Vadym and Father Taras.

“Even though many of us are collecting and sponsoring events for Ukraine the most important fact is that all of these events lead to one purpose; getting supplies into the hands of people through Western Ukraine.”

The mission will continue into the future, Theresa promises. Volunteers on May 7 will be wearing T-shirts saying: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”


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