Every little bit helps

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Tiffany Del Oso
  • 325 Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Earlier this year Ukraine was invaded by Russia, an event that has and still is devastating thousands of lives and uprooted hundreds of families.
People across the globe watched from afar as the war unfolded but felt helpless, with one of their only options being calling for change on social media.

“Being born and bred in Poland, and my entire family still living there, the desire to support Ukraine was strong,” said Staff Sgt. Adrianna Choluj, Air Force Special Operations Command headquarters noncommissioned officer in charge of protocol.

Choluj remained active in her efforts to help those in need, including organizing several fundraisers to help women and children staying at a hostel operated by her parents, and maintaining an active presence within social media groups dedicated to helping Ukranians in need.

“Through one of the groups, I learned about a Polish vehicle shipping agent in the U.S. who organized a donation drive in North Carolina,” said Choluj “I had posted the flyer on social media as a ‘last call’ for donations. Tech. Sgt. Gateley reached out to me immediately asking for details.”

Eager to take part in providing relief to Ukraine citizens, Tech. Sgt. Ian Gateley, 325th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician, and close friend of Choluj, began calling on Tyndall’s Airmen and families for donations too.

“I wanted to make sure that her original drive was more than successful,” said Gateley. “On top of that, I wanted to make sure this drive had a meaningful impact on the people of Ukraine who were in need.”

After the request for support went out, donations poured into drop off locations. Donations included medical supplies, cold weather gear, survival gear, personal hygiene items and children’s toys.

“From my point of view it just seemed like these people, civilians and whatnot, were being targeted unfairly,” Tech. Sgt. Edward Gooderham, 325th CES EOD technician. “They didn’t do anything and now they’re in danger all the time, so any little thing that we could do to help was better than nothing.”

Over the course of three weeks, Gateley and his counterpart Gooderham were able to get approval from the 325th Fighter Wing and organize pick up and drop off locations for goods. They transported approximately 800lbs of donations from Tyndall to Hurlburt where they were then taken to a port in South Carolina and finally shipped overseas. When combined with Hurlburt’s donations, the donation drive gathered over 1500lbs of potentially life-saving supplies.

“[Gateley] and his Airmen, with support from their leadership, were able to collect an impressive amount of food, medical supplies, clothing and toys,” said Choluj. “I am glad we joined the efforts and made it happen. It was time-consuming and the process of getting to that point was rather laborious but it allowed us to make a difference in the lives of many people in Ukraine who need all the support they can get right now.”