We are just a few people. A handful of neighbors who understand how lucky we are to live in Greenpoint. From our front stoops on Clifford Place we commiserated about the images and reports of brutality and bravery in Ukraine. The reality of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Ukraine – with little more than the clothes on their backs – compelled us to act. And so, we held our own “situation room” in Maryla’s basement and got to work on doing something.
Given the rich Polish history of our neighborhood, it made immediate sense to us to find a way to help our not-so-distant neighbors in Poland. Within two days we started a fund-raising drive called Neighbors Uniting for Neighbors in Need. Our GoFundMe site is now live, and it will channel money collected locally to Caritas, the largest charity organization in Poland, with financial stewardship provided by the Polish and Slavic Federal Credit Union. We have set an ambitious goal of $500,000. It may sound like a lot – but if residents and business step up – we can make it.
Jennifer Cooper, the lead organizer of the fund-raising initiative explained “I have worked for the United Nations for more than 20 years, so I understand how important it is to select the right partner when making donations. My friends and I also wanted to give to an organization that is working directly with people arriving in Poland. We chose Caritas, because it has years of experience around the world helping people in crisis situations, including refugees. They have a strong base in Poland and are also working in Ukraine. We know that Caritas can get resources into the hands of people when and where they need it most.”
Neighbors Uniting for Neighbors in Need is grateful to Zbigniew Rogalksi of the Polish and Slavic Federal Credit Union for his support of the initiative. He said, “The Polish and Slavic Federal Credit Union has been rooted in the community since the establishment of our first office in Greenpoint back in 1976. The founders wanted to help immigrants who, upon arrival in New York City, wanted to buy houses in Greenpoint but were turned down by the banks. So, this fundraising campaign is totally aligned with our history and mission. For this, we are waiving all our fees and will make sure that the funds are secure. We are very proud to do our part, along with neighbors here in Greenpoint who want to help out in these very difficult times.”
Assemblymember Emily Gallagher is lending her support as well, stating “It’s no surprise to me, but inspiring nevertheless, that the 50th District is pulling together resources and support for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. We are connected, and I am grateful for our intrepid neighborhood leaders like Neighbors United, the Polish Slavic Federal Credit Union and Jennifer Cooper taking such proactive and moving initiative. Thank you, on behalf of our entire community!”
Neighbors Uniting for Neighbors in Need is also grateful to Julia Moak, the publisher of Greenpointers who played a key role in bringing people together to make the idea a reality. Our neighbors Vittoria Zanuso, Ewa Knappik and Maryla Cobb also “founding members” worked hard to bring the project to fruition.
Maryla said that the heartbreaking images of suffering women and children compelled her to donate, and she hopes that other members of the community will also contribute to those refugees in such dire need.
Vittoria, a Greenpoint resident but also the Executive Director of the Mayors Migration Council — an organization that works with mayors from all around the world but is located at the edge of Williamsburg and Greenpoint — said “I was driven to co-lead this timely campaign in my personal capacity to show that local action can accelerate international humanitarian goals – it just takes a community to unleash a global movement.”
She added: “As the Ukraine refugee crisis is sadly not the only one and certainly not the last one we’ll see, my hope is that this experience will help Jennifer, Maryla, Ewa and I build a muscle to mobilize our neighbors in the face of other crises in the future.”
Edited by Jennifer Cooper