Ukraine: Amazing response to appeal in Hemel Hemsptead to help Ukrainian refugees

Volunteers overwhelmed by the support from the public

By Richard Silverwood
Monday, 7th March 2022, 12:59 pm
Updated Monday, 7th March 2022, 1:00 pm

Volunteers have been overwhelmed by the public's response to an appeal in Hemel Hempstead and Kings Langley for help to support Ukrainian refugees.

So many vital items have been donated that three vans and an 18-tonne truck have already been filled and dispatched

More lorries are due to go out this week as the donations continue to pour in.

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Volunteer Jon Andrews (left) with Polish helper Artur Blaziak, surrounded by donations at the Monks Buttery pub in Kings Langley.

"It has exploded," said Jon Andrews, 48, of Kings Langley, who is one of the volunteers co-ordinating the appeal, which was launched through social media.

"Everything you can think of has been donated, including medical stuff. It has gone absolutely haywire.

"I would like to thank the community of Hemel Hempstead and Kings Langley. I have had so many people come up to me, asking if they can help."

Jon, a printer engineer, is off work at the moment after a motorbike accident. He watched in horror as the Russians' invasion of Ukraine unfolded on TV.

Volunteers surrounded by donations to the Ukraine appeal.

"I felt I had to do something," he said. "So I contacted Clint Whitaker, a friend of mine who is the landlord of the Monks Inn in Hemel and the Monks Buttery pub in Kings Langley.

"We started taking donations and it went from there. To begin with, we received a few boxes and bags, but it wasn't long before my living room and both pubs were swamped. The vans, which have also been donated, were soon filled to the brim."

The donations have included clothes, underwear, socks, colouring books and pens, sleeping bags, duvets, blankets, pillows and sheets, first-aid kits, toiletries, torches, batteries, nappies and dry sanitary products.

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Clint Whitaker, landlord of the Monks Inn in Hemel Hempstead and the Monks Buttery pub in Kings Langley.

They will all find their way to Poland, where many of the Ukrainian refugees, mostly women and children, are fleeing to.

Two members of the Polish community in the Hemel area, Artur Blaziak and Justina Mclvr, have helped Jon and Clint.

And the vans and trucks are being driven to the White Eagle Club, a Polish community centre in Balham, south London, which is overseeing a huge appeal for Ukraine help.

Krzystof Gonder, the club's manager, said: "It is for a good cause. I would help anybody who needs help in war.

"Ukraine is Poland's neighbour country. So many Ukrainians live in Poland, so we feel they are part of the Polish population."

The club has received mountains of donations, and dozens of trucks are expected to make the journey out to the Poland/Ukraine border

Back here, Jon is well used to charity work as a member of the Dacorum Motorcycle Riders group, which has strong links with Watford General Hospital.

He says the two Monks pubs, at The Square in Hemel and Langley Wharf in Kings Langley, are continuing to take donations.

But such has been the response that a school in Hemel is soon to become a new drop-off point.

"The whole appeal has been outstanding," said Jon. "I can't thank everybody enough, especially Clint. It has been a pleasure to work with him."

Clint posted on Facebook: "What an amazing response. It has brought a lump to my throat.

"We have Russians who drink in our pubs. But we would do exactly the same thing for their families if the shoe was on the other foot."