WAKEFIELD, Mass. – When Rostislav Penek is not working at his Pit Stop BBQ restaurant in Wakefield, he collects, packs and drops off deliveries for his hometown in Ukraine.
Angry and heartbroken by the Russian invasion, Penek worked with a network of local charities and individual volunteers in the United States and Ukraine to ship and deliver critical supplies to the Ukrainian military and first responders, as well as personal care items to civilians.
“The town where my grandparents are buried and where my parents grew up, they were bombed. They hit the oil depot, and it burned for a few days. My aunt had to be dragged out of her house with my cousins, because she didn’t leave the house,” said Penek, who immigrated to the United States in 1997 at the age of 13. ” I am furious. I can’t do anything for revenge. At the same time, I do what I can myself. And I encourage others to do so. »
Schools, businesses, and individuals dropped off restaurant supplies, donated money through Venmo, and filled out an Amazon shopping list.
By Monday, five shipments had been delivered and over $16,000 raised.
More than 200 medical kits had been delivered, containing tourniquets and bandages.
“Something simple like that, costing $65, can save a life,” Penek said. “Anything that can help a soldier to be successful in what he does and to be safe.”
Among the many generous donors and organizers is Rose Lieber, an eighth grader at Galvin Middle School in Wakefield.
“I was thinking about it, and there were posters and newspapers all over my school. And the posters saying ‘We support Ukraine’ actually did nothing,” the 14-year-old said. “What would really help is donating, doing things to help Ukraine.”
Rose quickly organized a walk to the college dance last Friday and collected dozens of items, as well as $131 to help cover the high price of shipping.
“People donated toothbrushes, deodorant, a whole bunch of hygiene supplies and bandages, trauma kits, hand sanitizer,” Rose said. “And I think that would be very helpful because Ukrainians aren’t being treated like real humans at the moment, and they need to feel like humans and be able to live like humans.”
Penek is grateful for his extended Wakefield community which helps sustain his homeland.
“I’m privileged to be part of this community,” Penek said. “It’s multiple different little streams of aid coming in, but turning into this giant river of absolute passion.”
To donate via Venmo, send it to Penek’s family account, @sof252. To help you fill out the Amazon shopping list, including first aid kits, shop here.
Items can also be dropped off at the Pit Stop BBQ at 10 Vernon Street, Wakefield, between Tuesday and Sunday.
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