By Phil Abrams, president, San Carlos Kiwanis Club, California, U.S.
This is my third time serving as president of the San Carlos Kiwanis Club. I have been so lucky to be involved with the members of our club for close to 25 years. Over those years, I have found that sometimes the hardest thing in a leadership role is coming up with projects that resonate with various club members.
With the hardships of Ukraine front and center in our daily news, our members are aware of the suffering of the Ukrainian people and are eager to help. That gave me an idea: to have members (and friends of members) purchase pajamas for Ukrainian children.
I then expanded the concept to include slightly worn warm coats and clothing for all. We can only imagine the winter misery caused by the Russian oil and natural gas embargo — and the energy crisis it has created in Ukraine.
I mentioned my plan at our club’s inauguration picnic in October, and our board approved the project.
That same month, I was part of a three-synagogue golf tournament that raised over US$15,000 for local Ukrainian refugees. I then called a contact at the Jewish Family and Children’s Services. My contact led me to two people who had a resource with Nova Ukraine, a nonprofit helping with humanitarian aid for Ukraine.
At the end of November, I sent out a message asking 200 local friends to purchase children’s pajamas and look through their wardrobes for nice heavy coats and clothing.
A record of success
I believed that the plan would succeed because over the years I have seen that you just have to ask caring friends for help and support.
Three years ago, for example, I asked friends and Kiwanians to donate hats. A friend was helping a small Kenyan village where people were having vision problems and needed hats to protect their eyes from the sun. I was able to collect more than 500 hats, which were sent to Africa.
Another time, I contacted a pastor at a Tongan church in town to offer our club’s help to islanders who had lost so much in the volcanic eruption in Tonga in December 2021. Our club collected 510 pounds of clothes, which were delivered to the pastor and shipped to the people of Tonga.
In both cases, I simply asked our members and friends to bring their donations to our house — just “toss them over the iron gate” leading into our courtyard. I figured if it worked then, the same idea would work for the Ukraine donations.
It has. We have collected around 1,200 pounds ― over 80 large bags and boxes ― of children’s pajamas, heavy coats and warm clothing. My courtyard has been filled with bags and boxes for over a month (stored under our overhangs because of the Northern California rains). We made our first run over the San Francisco Bay via the San Mateo-Hayward bridge to our contact in East Bay. From there, the clothing will be sorted and shipped to Poland and then to Ukraine.
Along with other Kiwanis clubs throughout Division 34 of the California-Nevada-Hawaii District, as well as friends, neighbors and members of many faith houses, the San Carlos Kiwanis Club is serving the children of the world ― and helping their families.