By Daphne Sashin
The notice went out on Friday, March 11: PPMC’s Community Outreach Council and Diversity and Inclusion Committee were collecting supplies to aid Ukrainians still living in their war-torn country.
They had less than a week to get the items to the Ukrainian Education and Cultural Center in Jenkintown, as the center was preparing a humanitarian-aid shipment to Lviv, a city that’s become a hub for millions of refugees fleeing the Russian invasion in Kyiv.
The outpouring was instant. With collection spots set up inside the hospital, Penn Medicine University City, and Penn Medicine Cherry Hill, the staff donated more than 100 bags and boxes of diapers, first-aid kits, jackets, and other high-demand items. The committees were guided in their efforts by Associate Chief Financial Officer Gene Gofman, MBA, whose family migrated to the U.S. from Kyiv in 1989.
“It was incredibly moving to see such generosity by the individuals at PPMC, many of whom had no ties to this situation beyond compassion for other human beings,” Gofman said. “So many people, irrespective of their backgrounds or affiliations, were all trying to help those in need. It's overwhelming to see the amount of support that we can generate when people are in crisis.”
Gofman’s family had begun collecting humanitarian supplies from relatives and friends for the Jenkintown center. He spent part of his childhood in Ukraine and felt a deep need to help the people there.
“The feeling was, ‘I need to help these people in any way I can,’” Gofman said. “My heart went out to them. This is where I came from, and I had a profound understanding of what not being free means to a person. I am a fortunate individual whose family had the courage to emigrate when Ukraine was under the control of the USSR. I can only imagine what my life would be if they had not.”
Piggy-backing on Gofman’s efforts, the Presby committees split up the duties of who would handle communications, collections, packing, and delivery of items collected. Kimberly Elam, MBA, chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, got the word out and had boards printed for the drop-off locations; Melisa Stanton, MSN, MPH, Karrima Owens, MSN, Jennifer Nelson, MSN, and Ashley Bucelli, MSN, retrieved donations daily from the boxes in the hospital and PMUC; and Lisa Fidyk, MSN, led the effort in Cherry Hill.
PPMC’s efforts were on top of many other movements across the health system to support the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, including supply drives in other hospitals and more than $300,000 in monetary donations, including more than $200,000 from the Penn community and $100,000 matched by Penn and Penn Medicine.
On Thursday, March 17, Presby’s Meg Welde, BSN, George Iyoob, MHA, BSN, Nelson, and Stanton each drove a carload of supplies to Jenkintown. Gofman brought the supplies he had collected. He made another delivery a couple of weeks later with items donated at the hospital after the deadline.
“Everyone stepped up and took charge of their roles,” Elam said. “It was truly a group effort.”