You don’t need to wait for your local church or community center to start a charitable project — you can launch one yourself!
«All it takes is a little initiative, probably far less than you think», says Liliya Dikin, a Riverwoods resident who started the shoes and clothes drive by simply posting on Facebook and speaking to friends and neighbors about the initiative of helping Ukrainian children whose parents were forced to flee their homes due to war breaking out in their cities.
Dikin (maiden name — Mogilevskaya) immigrated to the U.S. in 1991 as a 10-year-old Jewish refugee, fleeing from Ukraine with her family of seven and $2,000 in savings. «We were surprised by the number of organizations that extended support to my family and thousands of families like ours, all of whom were fleeing from the former Soviet Union,» says Dikin. It’s been 23 years and I am still amazed by American people always stretching out a helping hand to those in need. I am proud to be an American, and I am considering it my duty to help the children of my motherland.»
An experienced marketer, a mother of two, a Board Member of numerous children’s educational and anti-hatred organizations, including the IL Holocaust Museum and the Arts for Kids Foundation, Dikin is actively involved in the Chicago start-up community and has served as a Board Member, an investor and a mentor to quite a handful of striving Chicago companies.
«The one thing my job as a Marketing Executive has taught me,» says Dikin «is that time is never in your favor, and if there is a need that needs to be filled — you need to roll up your sleeves and get it done. That applies to all aspects of my life, from getting groceries and cooking dinner for an unexpected crowd of 20 family members who decided to drop in, to encouraging your neighbor to participate in a blood drive, or identifying a market niche that would benefit from a new product or service. You don’t have to be the first one to do it, you don’t even have to be the best at it,» says Dikin, «but you can’t just sit there on a couch and watch life pass you by.»
Too often we wait for our community center to organize a food drive for the poor or a cell phone drive for soldiers in Iraq. We pat ourselves on the back for contributing and feel good when we get a sticker that says «I gave blood today to help girls with leukemia.» There are endless causes and organizations that ask for generous contributions of our time and resources. «You don’t need to wait for your local church to start a clothes and shoes drive — you can launch one yourself!» says Dikin, who is very disturbed by the events taking place in her country of birth.
«I am collecting children’s shoes and clothes to ship to Ukraine. Please drop off items at my front door and I will pack and ship by the end of December» is what her Facebook post said. Before she knew it, Dikin couldn’t enter the house through her front door as friends and neighbors kept dropping off boxes of items. «I was so touched that so many people have found it in their hearts to contribute to this cause, yet also disappointed that no one has made a similar attempt themselves to initiate a similar mission.»
«Ukraine, the country of my birth, is going through some really rough times,» says Dikin «yet too many of our friends, who are also immigrants from the former Soviet Union, sit behind the dinner table and complain about Putin, the war in Ukraine, and other devastating events taking place in the world, without lifting a finger to do something that will drive a positive change. All it takes is for someone to have a good idea (not necessarily an original one), and people who care about the subject matter will support it. It is just sad that too many of us wait for that «great idea» to come from someone else in order to show support.
«I hate politics with passion,» says Dikin «and in any political conflict all parties involved have stained history in negative ways. I am against any blood being shed and it is painful for me to read high-quality propaganda from all media channels involved,» shrugs Dikin «yet, the children are not at fault here (yet) and should be sheltered from the ongoing events as much as possible. Too many have lost their homes and everything they owned to flee from the war zones that broke out in the areas of Donetsk and Lugansk.»
Liliya has reached out to nearly sixty charitable organizations in Ukraine to see which ones may need support. In reading blogs and venting through research, she had quickly learned that a good handful of those organizations accept the generous donations and without hesitation, resell the items at a black market, with only a tiny fraction of the funds being contributed to supporting the respective charities’ missions. The organizations of her choice ended up being two orphanages, one near Kiev, Ukraine and the other in the suburb of Donetsk, Ukraine, both part of the «Blagomay Charity Fund of Ukraine.» Visit http://charitymay.com/ to learn more about this charity’s efforts and upcoming projects.
This collective shoes and clothes drive ended up taking the space of a car in the Dikin household’s very spacious living room. «It brought a smile to my face every time it got tighter and tighter in our garage,» says Liliya’s husband, Andriy Dikin, as he helps seal the final boxes. «The clothes we collected will help dress over 200 children as we stopped counting individual items after we counted over 50 coats, more than 100 shirts and sweaters, and endless numbers of pants, socks and shoes. We managed to get so organized that we didn’t know what to do with all the extra space in our living room after the shipping company arrived to pack up the donation.»
This shoes and clothes drive was made possible with the support of the following organizations and families: Campanella’s Children’s Choir, Children’s Land of Lincolnshire, Arts4Kids Foundation, Berson Family, Sokolov Family, Bragin Family, Livits Family, Kotliar Family, Ugolkov Family, Airapetov Family, Krasilnikov Family, Belogorsky Family, and Lozovsky Family.
Additionally, a huge thanks goes out to «Most Shipping Company,» whose founder has agreed to split the shipping cost with the Dikin family on the delivery of the donation to the respective orphanages. Sadly, UPS had declined the opportunity to help with this charitable project.
«We most sincerely hope that this collaborative effort will not only support the initial mission of helping the children of Ukrainian refugees, but will also encourage our community members to initiate similar projects on their own, without waiting for a big sign that says «donate your shoes!», say Liliya and Andriy Dikin.