‘What can we do?’: Northern Virginia launches coat drive to support Ukrainian refugees

In a practical and symbolic show of support for more than 3 million residents who have fled Ukraine due to the Russian invasion, Northern Virginian leaders have launched a regional collection to help keep refugees warm and comfortable.

Surrounded by fellow elected officials, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said Northern Virginians are looking for ways to help: “What can we do? We do not want to sit on the sidelines, we want to jump in and help people who are in need.”

The Northern Virginia Regional Commission launched its “Helping Ukraine” effort Wednesday at helpukrainenova.org.

McKay said the need is great. “Fifty-five Ukrainian children become refugees every minute,” he said, repeating the phrase to drive home the point.

“We are all coming together as a region, because we are all horrified,” said Arlington County Board Member Libby Garvey. “We’re horrified at what (Russian President Vladimir Putin) is doing. It should be impossible in this century. And we all felt like we have to do something.”

McKay said for the next three weeks, until April 15, donations will be collected at 34 drop-off locations.

“We are asking people throughout Northern Virginia, in all of our jurisdictions, to donate new and gently-used coats, new blankets, new pairs of socks, including heavy socks, and new pairs of gloves,” McKay said at the podium of the amphitheater of the Fairfax County Government Center.

McKay said Paxton Van Lines, based in Springfield, Virginia, had volunteered to ship all donations to those in need in Ukraine.

“We know that there is so much beyond our control, and that’s troubling for all of us as we watch the news on a daily basis, of the atrocities that are happening in Ukraine. But we also know there are some things within our control,” McKay said.

McKay said since overhead and shipping costs are being donated, the regional effort is not seeking money from residents.

“Every penny of what they spend on donations literally gets into the hands of people who need it,” he said.

McKay and Garvey were joined by elected officials from the cities of Falls Church, Manassas, Fairfax, Vienna, Alexandria and Herndon.

Editor’s note: Corrects state in which Paxton Van Lines is based.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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