In the rush to help both Ukrainian refugees fleeing their country because of the invasion by Russia and those who have stayed behind, a Ukrainian company in New Jersey has made it their mission to help.

Meest-America, one of the few companies that can deliver packages into Ukraine, took on the responsibility to facilitate shipping humanitarian donations in a wartime effort.  The company also initially took on the expense but it became a strain.

"We are doing everything we can to help Ukraine as well as ensure that we can continue to operate the business in the future and sustain all employees in the U.S and Ukraine. Currently, we have diverted almost all our resources worldwide to focus on humanitarian relief efforts for Ukraine. Meest employees in Ukraine are delivering and working through this crisis mostly unpaid, to help and support," Meest America COO Natalia Brandafi told New Jersey 101.5.

So far the company has been able to ship nearly all the donations, which total approximately 260,000 pounds, according to Brandafi. The cost of shipping is $2.30 per pound, which puts the cost so far at $598,000.

Decorated donations at the Meest-America warehouse in Port Reading
Decorated donations at the Meest-America warehouse in Port Reading (Meest-America)
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Help to cover shipping costs

Some Ukrainian-American charities like the group Razom for Ukraine have helped financially. But donations of supplies keep coming and payment is now required to ship them.

"We don't have enough funds to ship ASAP so we are also looking for funds to cover the transportation costs," Brandafi told New Jersey 101.5, adding that she hopes some airlines will donate cargo space and ship some humanitarian aide at no charge.

Otherwise, Brandafi is in the difficult position of having to ask for payment.

"We have organizations calling us requesting us to transport much more cargo, which is urgently needed there. What I must do is tell them to please find the funds to transport these goods because we have depleted ours and we are currently looking for the funds ourselves," Brandafi said.

Donations must be shipped by air because of the urgent need at $2.30 per pound. Shipping by freighters take can take nearly a month.

Inside the Meest warehouse in the Port Reading section of Woodbridge
Inside the Meest warehouse in the Port Reading section of Woodbridge (Meest-America)
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Monetary donations only

The Ukrainian American Cultural Center of New Jersey in Hanover is encouraging donations of items from a specific medical and military items list posted to Amazon

"We have been overwhelmed with everyone’s incredible generosity. Our recent donation drive more than exceeded our expectations," the center wrote on its website.

The center is also accepting monetary donations to cover shipping.

Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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