Students and Alumni Support Ukraine


David Spinrad, Staff Writer

As eyes and hearts turn towards the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, there have been a few initiatives taken on OCC Campus to support the cause.

A joint Kean-Ocean drive in the second week of March brought in food and clothing for the refugees.

The drive was started by Katie Napoli, the assistant director for Kean Student Services. “My intentions are to collaborate wholeheartedly with Ocean County College, to really build that bridge between the two institutions,” Napoli said.

“So as soon as everything was unfolding, I knew that we needed to build an initiative to offer support in all of the chaos in Ukraine.” Yet Napoli knew she did not have to face this alone.

She reached out to the Student Nursing Organization at OCC and joined their effort to raise supplies for the Ukrainian refugees in Romania.

Napoli made a list based on what was most needed for the refugees. “I did not fully expect the genuine desire from people I don’t know to give whatever was necessary,” Napoli said.

“I think what really put things in perspective for me, for how this had hit home, is that people really took into consideration what these folks over in Ukraine and Romania were experiencing in terms of being freezing cold,” Napoli said. “That they went out of their way to purchase things off of this list that were absolutely necessary for them to stay, it just really was incredible. ”

In addition, Napoli is currently working with the Church of St. Stephens here in Toms River to raise funds.

A bake sale by the Kean Psychology Club is scheduled for the end of March.

In the OCC Student Support Services office, Solia Spyrydon has been running a separate program to bring supplies to the Ukrainian cause.

Spyrydon, who is from the Lviv region of Ukraine, has been in America for three years but still has friends and family all over Ukraine. She was a student in OCC until she graduated and now is a peer mentor coordinator in the SSS office.

For her, this cause is deeply personal. When the war started in 2014, she was only 15 and wasn’t so aware of what was happening in her country. “I kind of knew that there was a war, but it was somewhere in the background because I live in the Western part of Ukraine and the war was in the east,” Spyrydon said. “I did watch the news and I did worry about, you know, those people over there and about the soldiers fighting, but I didn’t completely realize what was going on.“

“But this time the war has directly affected me and my family, because right now the entire Ukraine is being bombarded. So this time I decided not to be just the passive observer. I just want to be useful. I want to do something,” Spyrydon said.

Unlike the Kean-Ocean drive for the refugees, this is more focused on providing for the military.

“There is an issue with collecting both the collection of food and clothing, just because the warehouses are completely packed right now. That’s why it’s really expensive to ship clothing right now. There’s just no point in doing this because there is enough of all of those items. That’s why I’m collecting something which is actually needed, such as medications,” Spyrydon said.

“I even wanted to collect military supplies like helmets and vests and all that. But as far as I know you have to have a special permission to do that. And I’m not sure if I can get that. So I’m just trying to do everything that is in my power.” Spyrydon said. 

Solia has put up flyers with an updated list of supplies to bring into the SSS office.

“Anyone willing to help the Ukrainains are encouraged to join the cause,” Spyrydon said. “Every dollar, item and even word of support is truly appreciated.”