Katherine Dobosh is from Rosendale and is a 24-year-old medical student. She started a winter fundraiser and clothing drive called “Keep Ukraine Warm” this December that is ongoing. The goal is to gather winter coats, clothes, hats, gloves, sleeping bags and medical supplies from area donation boxes to be sent to Ukraine. She is also gathering monetary donations to assist with rising shipping costs.
Dobosh happens to be an active volunteer and humanitarian, but the roots of her generosity can be seen as the common thread between neighbors within our local towns and schools. One sign of this is the three bags of newly hand-knit hats, sweaters, scarves and baby blankets that were donated; with a personal touch, it’s clear they were made with care. This thread of care weaves through people’s lives in interesting ways.
Dobosh was excited to see that, along with area businesses and other public spaces, the Rondout Intermediate School became involved. Principal Lee Cutler is hosting donation boxes in the main office and has tasked some eager fifth-graders to post “Keep Ukraine Warm” fliers throughout the school (each has a QR code that when scanned connects people to the donation site). Students and families so far have contributed 20 bags full of coats, hats, sweaters, blankets and gloves. Cutler shared that “the children understand what it means to feel cold, and they appreciate the chance to help kids like themselves stay warm in another country. They like helping.”
As far as giving, Rondout families have also taken part in other donation-focused events at the school recently: the Thanksgiving Food Drive and Project Elf, a holiday toy drive, have both served local people in need. They are run annually by the school’s student council, along with organizers Angela Rion and Dana DeLaura (both fifth-grade teachers). In addition, a multi-school coat drive was organized recently by the PTSA for the community.
The success of these events shows that the kids are familiar with helping and participating, led by their parents’ and teachers’ examples, in both local and international causes. There are students like 9-year-old Walter Mykula, who is in Susan Gantz’s fourth-grade class and has something to say. “People need warm clothes in Ukraine because it's very cold, colder than here, and there are many power outages … and people are suffering,” Walter said. Dobosh and her parents, Vita and Vasil, are friends with the Mykula family of Stone Ridge, who have two girls in the district as well as Walter, the youngest. As fellow Ukrainians and fundraisers, Kathy and Danylo Mykula share the love for their Ukrainian culture and its diaspora here in Ulster County.
It just so happens that Walter shares the same fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Gantz, as Dobosh had when she was in grade school. Regarding her former student, Gantz says, “Katherine was a wonderful, caring fourth-grade student … It was a joy having her in my classroom.”
Like Dobosh did when she was young, Walter and his two sisters take part in Ukrainian cultural experiences with the Ukrainian American Youth Association (UAYA) and they actively help their mom and dad in fundraising activities. She says she loves seeing the kids doing what she did at their age. She recently bought a painting that the children made to raise more money for Ukraine and says it “hangs proudly on my wall.”
Dobosh said, “Since the start of the war, the importance of community has been critical. My hope is that through continued engagement with my community here in the Hudson Valley, we can together continue to help our counterparts in Ukraine. It takes a village." She shipped 14 boxes of supplies and clothes to Ukraine in the first week of December with the help of UAYA and the Mykulas, who shared the shipping costs. Organizers lean on monetary donations to make this happen and sometimes combine resources.
Kathy Mykula says that the UAYA organization raised funds this year to help Ukraine by selling hand-crafted items at outdoor events, through community-held auctions, raffles and music events, as well as proceeds that some local businesses gave from a portion of sales. She says, “To date, UAYA has sent over 200 boxes of medical and humanitarian supplies as well as over 30 boxes of specialized first-responder needs. Shipping is expensive, and we use the monetary donations we receive to help pay for the shipment of the boxes.”
The organization that Dobosh is affiliated with for fundraising is called the Ukrainian Medical Association of America (UMANA). Her dual-language skills, Ukrainian and English, along with public health studies, disability studies and medical training inform how she communicates the unique challenges facing Ukraine today with potential donors and at speaking events. Dobosh says, “Many hospitals have also begun turning away patients because of limited resources. With the increasing numbers of internally displaced people, preventative health measures such as staying warm are critical at this point during the war.” She wants to make sure that the crisis doesn’t fade from public awareness. With the Rondout community and nearby towns sharing what they can, both locally and with those in Ukraine, this is less likely to happen.
More donation boxes can be found at the following locations: Accord Market, Accord; Elting Memorial Library, New Paltz; Lemon Tree hair salon, New Paltz; Starbucks, New Paltz; Inquiring Minds Bookstore, New Paltz; and Fox and Hound Wine & Spirits, New Paltz.
A generous donation of one large box of new hats and gloves came from A & M Hardware in Accord. Other locations throughout Stone Ridge, Accord, Rosendale and New Paltz have allowed posters in their window to promote the fundraiser and clothing drive.
For more information, or to make a clothing or monetary donation, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Only new or lightly used clothing, please.
Also, donations for Ukraine can be made to UAYA at: https://gofund.me/1bd9b77f.
Dobosh will hold an in-person presentation titled “The Untold Stories of Ukrainian Refugees,” about her summer volunteer experience helping Ukrainian refugees in Bucharest, Romania, to be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22, at the Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz. The event is free and will be followed by a Q&A.
To register, contact the library at: Jfrauenberger@eltinglibrary.org or call 845-255-5030.