Gastonia Man Arrives At Ukrainian Border To Hand Out Relief Supplies For Children

GASTONIA, N.C. – A Gastonia man is giving us a firsthand account of the situation at the Ukrainian border.

Joe Lenihan flew to Poland over the weekend and drove to Ukraine to hand out relief supplies to children and families.

“This is if you’re walking across the border, this is where you’d end up,” Lenihan showed us.

The Gastonia businessman has a rental car packed with supplies for refugee families.

1,000 bags full of things like coloring books and playing cards.

“When I hand out the packets to the kids and the mothers, there’s just elated joy,” he says.

While so many people in the Charlotte area are sending items to Ukraine, Lenihan says he felt the need to be there in person.

“Very grateful, but there’s very little communication. I wish I could have more but I don’t speak Ukrainian or Polish or Russian,” he says.

One surprise – fewer people crossing than he expected.

Relief organizers Lenihan spoke with tell him that’s because it’s becoming more dangerous for refugees to leave.

“At beginning it was really crazy, we had 21,000 people crossing the border each 24 hours and now the numbers are dropping. And that’s because there are more bombing on the Ukrainian side, closer to us,” said Marta, a relief organizer.

But organizers think that will change as the Russians advance further west.

“We are expecting the numbers to grow again as the situation is not getting better,” Marta says.

Lenihan is staying at a hotel on the Polish side of the border and plans to visit train stations and other border crossings over the next week and a half.

“It’s been very easy to travel. Honestly, in Poland here if feels like there isn’t even a war going on,” he says.

He is working with a local Jesuit organization to figure out where he might be needed.

Lenihan paid for his own flight and transportation to Ukraine, but has started a GoFundMe page to help with supply donations.