Earlier this month, Amy Cook became aware of an opportunity in her California community to collect and provide medical supplies to those suffering in Ukraine.

She and others based in different cities and states collaborated to organize the project, and people showed up.

Volunteers generously donated funds or purchased supplies. Volunteers from different Los Angeles area faiths gathered at a local Ukraine Orthodox church to pack the donations into boxes. More volunteers loaded the items into trucks to be shipped by plane to Poland.

Now the drive to collect and ship supplies is an ongoing project, as long as there is a need.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to see good people coming together,” Cook said. “There was an urgent need for humanitarian relief, and the entire community responded and had tens of thousand of dollars in supplies delivered within a few days.”

The California project to ease suffering in and around Ukraine is one of many involving members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the United States to countries across Europe.

As of March 18, the church has helped more than 600 Ukrainian refugees who are members of the church, according to a news release.

“We are trying to do what Jesus would have us do, to lift the downtrodden,” said Elder Massimo De Feo, a General Authority Seventy who also serves as president of the church’s Europe Area. “We want the right supplies, financial support and people to go where they are needed the most — and as quickly as possible.”

The church, through Latter-day Saint Charities, has also donated $4 million to the World Food Program and the U.N. agency to assist tens of thousands of both Ukrainian refugees and those who remain in the war-torn nation.

How 2 international agencies will use $4M from Latter-day Saint Charities to help Ukraine refugees
How European Latter-day Saints are supporting and providing relief to refugees

Here’s a look at relief efforts by Latter-day Saints in the United States and across Europe.

Medical supplies in California

Cook organized the drive for first-aid kits and other medical supplies, as well as army boots, belts, gloves and thermals. One generous donor contributed 40,000 bottles of sanitizer. Several businesses and health care companies have also donated resources to the project, said Cook, a Latter-day Saint who serves as a JustServe representative, an online service platform sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Meest, a Ukrainian shipping company with a location in Glendale, California, is transporting the supplies to Poland.

“It’s wonderful to see that good people everywhere, no matter the religion or political persuasion, just want to help, with no conditions and no business involvement,” she said. “This was an entirely grassroots campaign, where people donated one kit here, and three kits there — truly a community effort.”

Cook posted photos and updates of the project on Instagram.

Idaho man goes to Poland on personal humanitarian mission

As he watched the Ukrainian conflict begin to unfold, Paul Haacke, of Idaho Falls, wanted to do something to help. The struggle reminded him of the 1990’s Bosnian War, which left thousands dead and millions displaced.

Haacke wasn’t in a position to do anything then, but he is now. He could have easily made a donation, but personally it wasn’t enough.

“Somehow I just needed to help these people,” Haacke told the Deseret News in a midnight phone call from Poland. “I just felt like I needed to come over and be here.”

With the blessing of his wife and family, Haacke flew to Poland and arrived Thursday with plans to stay until the end of the month. He’s currently in Krakow, a two and a half hour drive from the Ukraine border.

Far left, Paul Haacke, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, with fellow volunteers in Krakow, Poland.
Far left, Paul Haacke, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, with fellow volunteers in Krakow, Poland. They operated three vans to shuttle refugees from the Ukrainian border to Krakow. The picture was taken after they worked for a period of 40 hours. | Paul Haacke

Haacke connected with other volunteers who drive to the border twice a day. Using a 9-passenger van he rented himself, they shuttle refugees back to Krakow where they find a hotel or drop them off at a bus or train station so they can travel on to another destination.

“We’ve been helping people out and we’ve been going 40 hours straight minus about a 20-minute nap that we took around noon at a McDonald’s today,” Haacke said.

Haacke and other volunteers learned quickly the need to work with trusted and official organizations so refugees would accept their offer to help. Many refugees are cautious about accepting help from strangers for fear of sex trafficking or other dangers. Haacke and others were able to gain the trust of officials at a refugee processing center near the border, which opened the door to help refugees.

This picture shows a one of several rooms filled with cots in refugee center in Poland.
This picture shows a one of several rooms filled with cots in refugee center in Poland. | Paul Haacke

What Haacke has seen and heard has been heartbreaking. Most Ukrainian men ages 18-60 are required to stay in the country, so most refugees are women and children. Many have feared for their lives and seen death up close.

“Our burdens are are nothing compared to the burdens that you see on these women,” he said.

The good news is there is an abundance of supplies in Krakow, including food and clothing. Haacke has sorted items and handed packages to the refugees and they are receiving what they need.

Ukrainian refugees arriving in Poland are offered food and supplies.
Once Ukrainian refugees pass through passport control, they walk this path to a bus which takes them to the refugee processing center. Volunteers along the side of the path offer hot drinks, a hot meal, clothing and other food. | Paul Haacke

“It’s nice to know that when we live in such an ugly world sometimes that there is still a lot of humanity in it and a lot of love that we have for one another,” Haacke said.

Haacke’s experience in Poland, less than a week old, has already given him an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

“We are so blessed,” he said.

Latter-day Saints in Europe

Latter-day Saint leaders in the church’s European Area have organized emergency relief committees to help coordinate humanitarian efforts.

These small councils allow for the church’s European Area presidency to coordinate relief efforts with local priesthood leaders and sister leaders, as well as humanitarian organizations.

The church’s Europe Area presidency is responsible for church congregations in 38 European countries and oversees the humanitarian response and funding from the church for refugee support, the news release said.

One initiative generated by the committees, called the Partner Branch System, has helped the church to support its congregations near the Ukraine border and more efficiently provide humanitarian aid there. The system partners 19 German, Swiss and Austrian stakes (groups of congregations in a geographical area) with 24 congregations of the countries in the Europe Area that share a border with Ukraine.

Latter-day Saints in Poland

  • In Krakow, Poland, church members have supported a constant flow of Ukrainian refugees arriving there. In some cases, they have also assisted refugee networks in reuniting separated families.
  • Read more about some of refugee experiences at the church’s newsroom website.

Latter-day Saints in Italy

  • Italy’s East and West Milan stakes joined the Consulate General of Ukraine in Italy to collect essential goods for the people of Ukraine.
  • Young people ages 14 to 30 distributed lists of materials needed around the city and children drew pictures to send with the packages.
  • Members, missionaries and friends of the church donated and gathered supplies.
  • Dozens of people sorted, boxed and loaded 25 pallets with 551 boxes of blankets, clothing, food, medical supplies and personal hygiene products on to trucks offered by the consulate bound for Ukraine.
  • Read more about this service project at the church’s Italy newsroom website.
Essential goods collected by Latter-day Saint in Milan, Italy, ready to be shipped to Ukraine.
Essential goods collected by Latter-day Saint in Milan, Italy, ready to be shipped to Ukraine. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Latter-day Saints in Luxembourg

  • Leaders and church members have collected hundreds of boxes of donations for refugees entering Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
  • They sent dozens of air mattresses, sleeping pads, first-aid kits, medical supplies, blankets and pillows and other goods.
  • The supplies were delivered by the congregation leadership to a congregation in Warsaw, Poland.

Latter-day Saints in Sweden

  • Two brothers from church congregations in Sweden drove to Warsaw, Poland, with 100 sleeping bags and other items in the initial days of the crisis.
  • Members and friends of the church are now asked to coordinate their efforts first with local leadership in their respective congregation or with established local charities or relief organizations.
A pile of sleeping bags and other goods were brought from Sweden by two young men.
A pile of sleeping bags and other goods were brought from Sweden by two young men representing Swedish congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Latter-day Saints in France

  • A local church leader collaborated with a Slovakian relief organization to collect and transport basic needs to the Slovakian border. They returned with a family of six headed for Luxembourg.
  • Other members in France have organized similar donation drives and made multiple trips to deliver them at the Slovakian border.
  • Another local leader has helped five displaced Ukrainian families.
  • Read more about these efforts at the church’s France newsroom website.

Latter-day Saints in Denmark

  • One congregation in Denmark welcomed a Ukrainian family at Sunday worship services. Their only possessions were the clothes on their backs.
  • The congregation has provided lodging and collected clothing, food and other items for the family.
  • Other Danish congregations have been collecting money, food and clothing to send to refugee camps and different charitable organizations.
  • They plan to hold more fasts, appointed days where members abstain from food and water, and donate those funds to church humanitarian programs.

Latter-day Saints in Germany

  • Young Latter-day Saints from a congregation in Friedrichsdorf sorted and folded clothing for Ukrainian refugees.
  • An adult member used JustServe to gather clothing. Within 24 hours, they had enough clothing to fill 60 large bags. The clothing was sent to the Frankfurt Refugee Center.
Latter-day Saints collected 60 bags of clothing for refugees in Frankfurt, Germany.
Latter-day Saints collected 60 bags of clothing for refugees in Frankfurt, Germany. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Latter-day Saint in Austria

  • Members have organized crisis teams, collected donations and sent them to relief organizations.
  • Volunteers have provided short- and medium-term housing accommodations and interpreters.
  • Volunteers have also prepared meals for 50 refugees in a rented hotel.
  • Read more about these projects at the church’s Austria newsroom website.
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