WAKEFIELD, Mass. — When Rostislav Penek is not working at his Wakefield restaurant Pit Stop BBQ, he is collecting, packing and dropping off deliveries for his hometown of Ukraine.
Angry and heartbroken by the Russian invasion, Penek has been working with a network of local charities and individual volunteers in the United States and Ukraine to ship and deliver critical supplies to the Ukrainian military and first responders as well as personal care items to civilians.
“The town where my grandparents are buried and my parents grew up in, they got bombed. They hit the oil depot, and it burned for a few days. My aunt had to be dragged out of her house with my cousins, because she did not leave the house,” said Penek, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1997 when he was 13. “I’m enraged. I can’t do anything to get revenge for it. At the same time, I’m doing what I can myself. And I encourage others to do so.”
Schools, business and individuals have been dropping off supplies at the restaurant, donating money by Venmo and filling an Amazon shopping list.
By Monday, five shipments had been delivered and more than $16,000 raised.
More than 200 medical kits had been delivered, containing tourniquets and bandages.
“Something simple like that, that costs 65 dollars can save a life,” Penek said. “Anything to help a solider to be successful at what they do and to be safe.”
Among the many generous donors and organizers is Rose Lieber, an eighth-grader at Galvin Middle School in Wakefield.
“I was thinking about it, and there were posters and papers all around my school. And the posters saying ‘We support Ukraine’ didn’t actually do anything,” the 14-year-old said. “What would actually help is donating stuff, actually doing things to help Ukraine.”
Rose quickly organized a drive at the middle school dance last Friday and gathered dozens of items, along with $131 to help cover the hefty price of shipping.
“People donated toothbrushes, deodorant, a whole bunch of hygiene supplies and bandages, trauma kits, hand sanitizer,” Rose said. “And I think that would be very helpful because the people in Ukraine are not being treated like actual humans at the moment, and they need to feel like humans and need to be able to live like humans.”
Penek is grateful for his extended Wakefield community helping support his homeland.
“I am privileged to be part of this community,” Penek said. “It’s multiple, different, little streams of help that’s coming in, but turns into this giant river of absolute passion.”
To donate via Venmo, send to Penek’s family’s account, @sof252. To help fill the Amazon shopping list, including first aid kits, shop here.
Items may also be dropped off at Pit Stop BBQ at 10 Vernon St., Wakefield, between Tuesday and Sunday.
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