Point Pleasant Beach mayor heading to Poland to help Ukrainian families fleeing Russian invasion
The mayor of an Ocean County town is heading overseas to help the people of Ukraine amid the Russian invasion.
“Since it’s going to be nighttime, obviously we’ve got a lot of blankets, some kids blankets,” says Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra.
Kanitra is heading to Poland to assist Ukrainians fleeing across the border.
“We rented a 10-person passenger van so that we can give rides to people coming across the border,” he says. "These border towns are very small little villages without a lot of infrastructure, so we’re going to offer people rides to the bus depots, to the train stations, in the airports if they need them.”
Kanitra is Polish and Slovakian. He has traveled to Ukraine in the past. He says that he feels called to help in any way that he can.
“If we go there and we can help one family that’s been displaced, I think then we’re going to consider it a success. Looking at the thousands and thousands of people that are streaming through the border, I think we’re going to be able to help a lot more than that. But for us, it’s just trying to do our part,” Kanitra says.
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Some Point Pleasant Beach business owners are also pitching in to help. The owner of Lola’s Boutique says that her daughter has many friends in Ukraine that she worked with years ago at the Jersey Shore.
“There’s some slippers in here, hats, scarves,” says Lola’s owner Marla Morris, who has packed a suitcase with donations that Kanitra will take with him.
“I wish I could do more. I wish I could go myself,” says Morris. “I’m so heartbroken, as we all are. We all want to do more.”
Kanitra says that he expects to be in Poland for just over a week. He says he hopes he can make connections that will better help New Jersey residents who want to help Ukraine.
“We’re going to be as objective as possible in terms of what the true needs are and what the challenges are on the ground,” the mayor says. “And if by opening that window we give people better information to make their own decisions about how they can help, that’s going to be a huge success, I think.”
Kanitra says that he will also be giving out toiletries and other necessities that he is bringing over from New Jersey. He is hoping to buy more when he arrives in Poland after figuring out what the greatest need is.