A group of Army spouses stationed in Germany is stepping up to help Ukrainian war refugees in neighboring Poland.
Since March 1, members of Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC) at Hohenfels Training Area in Bavaria have collected enough clothes, hygiene kits, furniture, food, toys, diapers and pet supplies to fill a dozen vehicles. From Hohenfels, the ladies have made nine trips (and counting) across the border to a Polish mission that distributes the items to fleeing Ukrainian families.
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“We want to help these families that lost everything,” wrote PWOC president Mandy Hetzel in an email. “We want to make an impact and show them Jesus’ love.”
Girls gone good
It all started with a girls’ trip and the lure of Polish pottery. Hetzel and several other PWOC ladies traveled to Poland to shop for the famous stoneware in late February, soon after Russia invaded Ukraine. One of the women, Chevon Workman, suggested a side trip to Elim Christian Center. The nonprofit is housed in a castle and sells handcrafted nativity sets to fund its charity work.
A missionary there gave the women a tour and introduced them to Elim’s work in the local community. Armed with newly-purchased creches, PWOC members returned home. The following day, Hetzel, wife of Army Capt. Joshua Hetzel, saw an Elim Facebook post. The nonprofit was getting ready to house over 70 Ukrainian refugees; could anyone help with donations?
“As women, I feel we need to help other women and families,” said Hetzel. That same day, she presented the idea of assisting Elim to PWOC’s members. They quickly jumped into action.
PWOC women set up a GoFundMe, netting $615. One woman baked and sold cookies around base, earning over $1,000. And members Carrie Bucalo and Angela Allen immediately began planning a return trip to Poland.
Allen, wife of Army Maj. David Allen, put out a plea on social media for immediate-use donations for refugees. The message spread quickly, and she soon found herself inundated with toiletries, baby products, dog and cat food, laundry and dish soap and more.
“Every time I left the house, I would come back home to a porch full of donations and supplies. It was amazing,” she wrote in an email. “I had complete strangers messaging me that they heard what I was doing and wanted to know how they could help.”
Caravans of compassion
So far, approximately 20 women from Hohenfels and PWOC have filled their vehicles with refugee donations and delivered them to Elim. The money, meanwhile, is being used to heat the castle and purchase meals for the Ukrainians.
“It was heart-wrenching to watch the news and to see it all happening so close to us,” Allen said. “But proximity enabled us to help by making repeated trips.”
During one of those trips, Allen and Bucalo met with affected Ukrainians at Elim, seeing firsthand how their donations were helping. The duo even took one Ukrainian woman out for coffee; the outing turned into a successful plan to help the woman and her family properly relocate to Germany.
“Individually, we are small, but with God’s help, we can do great things,” said Allen, who has spent more than 100 hours on the project since its March kickoff. “I have to give credit to my whole community and to God for making this all happen. Without them, this mission would not have been as successful or as continuous as it has been.”
That community has stretched to include donations not only from non-PWOC members on Hohenfels, but also German and American friends and family. Good thing, too ― that first group of 70 Ukrainian families has now grown to more than 100.
Elim, Hetzel said, has kept in frequent touch, letting PWOC know how their donations are being used and appreciated. “They are very grateful to have this American military community as allies in this critical work,” she said.
Most of all, Hetzel, Allen and the other women just want their efforts to bless those torn apart by the horrors of war.
“I hope it makes them smile during a hard time in their life,” Hetzel said. “I hope they feel loved.”Read comments