Wanted for Ukraine: men’s sneakers and dog food

Little Wing Relief is sending its third 40-foot shipping container next week, filled with supplies for both soldiers and civilians.

ATHENS, Ohio — Holly Dallman weaves through the tables and racks inside the Little Wing Thrift Store and Curiosity Shop toward the back of the store, located behind IHOP at the Market on State. Towers of cardboard boxes rise over the low wall that separates the retail shop from the true purpose of Dallman’s work.

Holly Dallman looks over donated bags of dog food to be sent to Ukraine. ACI photo by Corinne Colbert

On Sept. 13, Little Wing will send off the final boxes for its third container shipment to Ukraine. The 40-foot container will arrive in Kyiv near the end of October. The first shipment went in 2022; the second was sent earlier this year.

These mini trauma kits are lifesavers on the battlefield, Dallman said. ACI photo by Corinne Colbert

Many of the supplies go to members of two fighting brigades and a civic brigade that Little Wing regularly supports, Dallman said. Among the most important items are prepackaged trauma kits that soldiers can slide onto their belts. The belt loops are on a panel that attaches to the pack with Velcro; in an emergency, the pack can be quickly detached and unrolled.

The packs are designed to provide lifesaving care to people before they are transported to a field hospital, Dallman said. 

“The reason that most people die on the battlefield is because of blood loss,” she said. “They can’t get them to a field hospital quickly enough. … These kits have pretty much everything necessary to treat somebody in the field before they can get them to a field hospital.” 

This shipment will include a full-sized van that will be used as an ambulance, Dallman said. Little Wing has already provided a field hospital. 

“Did you ever watch ‘M*A*S*H’?” she asked. “You know the big, big tent that they did surgery and treatment in? Well, we shipped one of those in our first load. It’s insulated and fully electrified so it can be used in summertime or wintertime. That’s a frontline field hospital now.”

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Not every recipient is human, though. As they fled their homes as the war began, Dallman said, “Most people left their pets thinking that they’d be returning pretty quickly — which of course, didn’t happen.”  

So, one corner of the shipping prep area is dedicated to pets. Collapsed pet crates, cat carriers and buckets of cat litter sit around and atop 50-pound bags of dog kibble lined up six deep along the wall. In a previous shipment, Little Wing sent two kennel banks (like the ones you see in a vet’s office), which it purchased with cash donations.

Dallman coordinates shipments with Dmitry Feld, a Ukrainian American who lives in Lake Placid, New York. Feld took a retired veterinarian to Ukraine earlier this year, she said. “They were there for a week and all that vet did from morning till night was spay and neuter, spay and neuter, spay and neuter.”

Dog food is one of the items Dallman needs most as she finalizes this shipment. “I always tell people, quantity is much more important than quality,” she said. “So don’t don’t buy little bags of expensive food, buy enormous bags of cheap food.”

Also desperately needed are men’s sneakers, new or used. “They will be used for dangerous nighttime missions when [soldiers] go behind enemy lines and they want to be very quiet and very agile,” Dallman said. 

ACI photos by Corinne Colbert

Every single item — “We’re talking thousands and thousands and thousands of items,” Dallman said — has to be documented with a price for U.S. Customs. On Wednesday, volunteer Mary Hogan was sorting through bottles of medication, noting the name and price (determined by a Google search) in a binder. 

“We ship any kind of medication — antibiotics, mental health medications — we ship anything people bring in,” Dallman said.

The price of each item is totaled to declare the total value of the shipment. “Our first load carried $168,665 in supplies,” Dalllman said “Our second load carried $102,551.”

Local businesses and organizations help out. Clothes and stuffed animals are cleaned and sanitized for free by Ambassador Laundries, Dallman said. When a load of boxes is ready to send off to the shipper in Columbus, someone from Tractor Supply drives a forklift from the opposite end of the mall to lift the pallets onto the truck. Rural Action’s Zero Waste Medical Donation Program has donated used equipment. 

Mostly, though, every shipment comprises individual donations of items, while Dallman uses cash donations to fill more expensive or specialty requests. The cost of shipping is supported by sales at the shop.

“Primarily, it’s the kind and generous people of Athens,” she said.

ACI photos by Corinne Colbert

Dallman is already thinking about the fourth shipment, and she doesn’t expect to stop anytime soon.

“Nobody knows when this war is going to end,” she said. “And after it ends, they’re going to need tremendous help with reconstruction.”

Even if the war ended today, Dallman would keep organizing relief shipments to somewhere. “My personal dream is to get some land donated, have a warehouse built and be able to ship from there,” she said. “There are so many places that need help, so many refugee camps that need everything for people.”

Little Wing Thrift Store and Curiosity Shop is located at 1006-C East State St., at the rear of the Market on State. The store is open noon–6 p.m. Tues-Fri and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays. Items for Ukraine shipments can be dropped off at the store or in donation boxes at Kroger, Seaman’s, Kindred and The Farmacy.

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