Principle #3– Use your passion to help humanity

What a month it has been! The month of Thanksgiving is upon us, and I have a lot to share.

Dana and I are once again in North Carolina, visiting my family for Thanksgiving. I must say, running across the airplane terminal into big hugs from Deb and Tom is so special and is always one of my favorite moments when I first see my sister after months away from each other. Seeing the red, yellow, and orange leaves in North Carolina is another one of my favorite things. (I suddenly felt like Julie Andrews when she sang, “These are a Few of My Favorite Things.”)  We will see the rest of our family next week when the official Thanksgiving holiday is in full swing. I feel so fortunate and am deeply grateful for Dana, my loving family and friends, opportunities to travel the world, and for our dear friends in Poland and Ukraine.

I just returned from Krakow, Poland, where we hosted United States Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg while he visited our Kocham Dębniki community center. An experience I will never forget.

From the Press Release:
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg visited Swietlica Dębniki Community Center in Krakow, Poland, on 9 November 2023. One of two NGO visits in Poland, recommended by the U.S. Consulate General in Krakow following his surprise visit to Kyiv to discuss efforts to “return Ukraine to economic self-sufficiency” with infrastructure investment.

Straight off an overnight train from Kyiv, he spent an hour touring the center, listening intently to how it began and the impact it’s made since opening in June 2022. He then gave a 7-minute interview on Polish TV (see the interview link below).

As most of you know, Foundation Kocham Dębniki serves 1,100 families each month with food, clothes, hygiene products, polish language classes, daycare, psychotherapy services, and support groups for women and mothers.

I could not have been prouder of Елена Михайлова (Lena), Olga Piasecka Nieć, and Łucja Malec-Kornajew as they did an amazing job communicating stories and purpose with such clarity.

The last 20 minutes of his hour visit was spent in an intimate conversation with Secretary Pete about how and why we (Ukraine Relief Initiative – volunteers from America) are involved, and then together, we acknowledged the importance of rebuilding community and repairing the social fabric of Ukraine torn apart by war.

“In Swietlica Dębniki, we feel the power of community. We don’t have such a thing in Ukraine. Now we want to create community centers when we return to Ukraine to support families as they reunite”, Lena said after sharing that her husband volunteered for the Army and has been fighting on the front line since the war began nearly two years ago.

Secretary Buttigieg offered his perspective on the critical importance of community to mend the fabric of post-war society. “We learned this the hard way in the United States. We didn’t sufficiently support families after Viet Nam, and it didn’t go well. In my own experience, after serving in Afghanistan, I know we have greatly improved our services with more work yet to be done. You all are forward-looking to already be thinking about this aspect of the rebuilding process.”

At the end of the discussion, he smiled and turned to Amy, Matt, and me (Ukraine Relief Initiative leaders and Americans) and said, “I now understand why you are hooked.”

I said, “you now see what we see and can understand why we keep coming back.”

Olga Piasecka Nieć, Łucja Malec-Kornajew, Елена Михайлова (Lena), Amy Kemp, Matt McKissock, Cindy Henson and Secretary Pete Buttigieg

After a brief photo op and a 7-minute interview with Polish TV in our Kocham Dębniki concert hall, he was whisked away with secret service into his black suburban and was off to visit the American Chamber of Commerce in Poland to discuss the important role they will also play in rebuilding Ukraine.

Please see these video clips, the entire interview transcript and the 7-minute interview here.

Our current focus is on fundraising for 2024 to continue providing food, clothing, hygiene products, language classes, daycare, psychotherapy services and support to the women, mothers, and children that make their way to our doorstep to create a new life.

If this mission touches you, we would be honored to accept your donations this “Giving Tuesday”. Please see the ways to donate below.

I value your kindness, friendship, and support for our Ukrainian friends. Thank you for being part of my circle of light. Be positive and stay safe. Hope for peace. #lovewins #peaceforukraine #peaceonearth

With Deep Love and Gratitude,

If you DON’T need a tax receipt:
Please send funds to my Venmo account: And I will immediately send to the proper account in Poland.

If you DO need a tax receipt:
Contributions are fully tax-deductible through HCC, our registered 501(c)(3) passthrough charity.

Make your check payable to **Hispanic Community Council** – (VERY IMPORTANT: not to Ukraine Relief Initiative) and send it to the following address:
c/o John Kersey
208 Liberty Street
Warren, PA 16365
Please indicate “Ukrainian Relief Initiative” in the check memo and include a note with your contact info (address, phone, email). 

Use this link: PayPal goes through the “Hispanic Community Council,” our 501(c)3 passthrough organization.
In the memo, please include your name, address, phone #, and email so we can process your tax receipt.

Lena (Елена Михайлова) Kocham Dębniki Office

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