Two friends from Bridport who decided to take action to help people in Ukraine have been completely overwhelmed with the staggering level of support they have received.
Claire Nuttall and Jane Wain were chatting in the pub not long after war had broken out.
“We were feeling so terrible about it,” says Claire.
“We thought that as it was the quietest month for Jane’s shop (Bridport Music Shop) we could offer to be a collection point, so when we got home about 11pm we put it on the Bridport Banter Facebook page.
“By 11am the next day she rang me in an absolute panic – the shop was totally full – that’s Bridport for you.
“It just didn’t stop coming – unbelievable amounts of stuff. I took some at my studio at St Michael’s estate, then my landlord at St Michael’s rang me to offer an empty unit.
“So within 48 hours of putting that initial post online we had a unit and put a call out for help because we needed to pack all the donations and sort it all properly.
“We had 50 volunteers, which is just incredible. In other towns the efforts have waned as people got tired, but in Bridport they’ve just carried on and on.”
Though their campaign only started a few weeks ago “it feels like a lifetime,” says Claire, 50, an artist who installs murals around West Dorset.
Since they started they have sent two artics-worth of aid and sorted ‘a mountain’ of donations.
About a quarter of the donations were unsuitable to send to people in a war zone – such as evening wear and vintage clothes. So the pair are staging a three-day event to sell the clothes, bedding and other items – lots of them new with tags – and raise some cash for what people in Ukraine do need. A vintage clothing expert has been helping organise racks and racks of lovely items and local musicians have offered to play.
The event will be held from 10am-4pm April 30-May 2 at St Michael’s Trading Estate DT6 3RR, behind Burwood’s Electrical. There will be live music from Nina Garcia, Ben Wain and others, burgers, cream teas and prosecco and the chance to bag a gleaming new wardrobe while knowing 100 per cent of the money will reach the people who need it. Cash and card accepted.
Claire said: “It’s not really us at all – we’re middle men. We’ve got 50 people who come in and they are all over it. You daren’t put your bag down because it will get packed and shipped. In fact we’ve lost two coats! And there’s a brand new Superdry fleece now being worn by someone in Ukraine that arrived on a volunteer…
“There are some lovely clothes that were unsuitable to send, so people can really get a bargain. And there’s loads of bedding because initially bedding was on the wish list but then suddenly wasn’t needed. Much of it is brand new and we have so many clothes with the labels still on.”
Now the initial rush has calmed, Jane and Claire are hoping to keep working with an orphanage in Romania which took in Ukranian orphans.
Claire said: “My partner Ben McGachy, who is a paramedic, took annual leave to drive all the way to Lviv twice to deliver our donations, then came back here and immediately drove to Romania where he delivered food, nappies, clothing and toys to an orphanage there.
“A child psychologist who can speak Russian found us on the net and asked for our help after an influx of 60 orphans from Odessa – they had nothing for them.
“Long term we want to keep a connection with that orphanage and keep an eye on them, they just had nothing and not a single adult could speak their language. They came over with no medical history, nothing.”
n Anyone who would like to help can go to the Bridport to Ukraine Facebook page or just turn up to the event from April 30-May 2.