In March, Mad River Valley Ambulance Service volunteer Tom Buczkowski was talking to service president Dave Shance while both were working in the COVID testing and vaccine clinics at Waitsfield United Church of Christ.
“We were talking about the situation in Ukraine and came up with the idea that a lot of EMS services in Vermont have equipment that could be expiring soon. We thought, why not collect it and see if we could get it to Ukraine,” he said.
They contacted their sister service, Waterbury Ambulance Service (WASI), and talked with WASI director Mark Podgwaite about the idea. He liked the idea and suggested that Buczkowski be the point person for the collection. Podgwaite used his statewide EMS contacts and Buczkowski did the footwork to get the ball rolling.
“Mark composed a letter that was sent to all Vermont EMS agencies to see what kind of response we’d get. People began committing supplies. A week or so later, we realized we’d need a place to store all of it until we could get it shipped,” Buczkowski said.
He contacted Governor Phil Scott and told him about the project. Scott put him in contact with Vermont Emergency Management and when Buczkowski told him what he needed, they connected him to VTrans and its garage in Berlin that had a fork lift and loading dock.
“I met with them at the garage and inspected the facility and found it adequate so we kept collecting supplies. We realized we needed pallets and went back to Vermont Emergency Management and they connected me with the Vermont Medical Counter Measures department who provided the pallets and the wrapping material. That is when the Vermont Air National Guard got involved and they supplied all the pallets,” Buczkowski explained.
In just over a month they collected over 1,000 pounds of medical supplies including everything from IV start kits to backboards and teddy bears as well as a lot of trauma-related supplies.
“That was the goal in collecting materials,” Buczkowski noted. Working with Denver-based Project Cure, shipping was organized.
“They set up all the shipping. Everything was palletized and ready to ship and they sent information about trucking. Everything will be picked up in mid-May and airlifted to Ukraine where it will be disbursed to Eastern Ukraine.
Buczkowski said that in addition to donations from about a dozen Vermont EMS agencies, the effort benefitted from generous donations from private individuals.
Buczkowski has been a MRVAS volunteer since 2019 and has been staffing the COVID vaccine and testing clinics since March 2022. He lives in Waitsfield.