'Absolutely phenomenal' South Tynesiders hailed as van full of vital donations leaves for Ukraine

Businesses and communities across the borough have donated an ‘outstanding’ amount of supplies for Ukraine as a van sets off for the war-torn country.

STARCH (South Tyneside Asylum Seekers and Refugee Church Help) has collected donations from local businesses and members of the community across the region to provide much needed supplies to the conflict zone to support those in need, as the fighting in the country rages on.

Volunteers have been working since this morning to package and label all the donations before the van left South Tyneside on Friday afternoon (September 26) at around 2.30pm for a ferry and which will then head on to Ukraine.

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Businesses including Barbour, Michael Dickinson, Darling’s chemist, Unison and ASDA have all donated money or supplies to the collection which only started last Tuesday, September 13.

Margaret Gregg and David Smith with Items that have been donated to STARCH (South Tyneside Asylum Refugees Church Help) to send to Ukraine. Picture by FRANK REID.

Volunteer Margaret Gregg said the number of donations has been “unbelievable”.

She said: “It’s absolutely phenomenal, the amount of support we’ve had is outstanding. Everyone has come together during a time in need and really is unbelievable.

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"It’s all happened very quickly but we’ve had donations from local businesses, churches and from members of the community. These items are vital as Ukraine go into their winter months and it will make such a different to so many people.”

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Volunteers from Starch help driver Kevin Roddam load the van ready to drive to Ukraine. Picture by FRANK REID

The group has been collecting items at Barrington Street, South Shields which is a unit given to the group by South Tyneside Council as a meeting place for Ukrainian refugees.

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Items including warm winter clothing, toiletries, ponchos, medical equipment, sleeping bags and food supplies were donated to the collection.

It has now been seven months since Russia launched their invasion of Ukraine.

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On Wednesday (September 21) Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilisation of Russian forces in response to Ukraine regaining territory in the northern Kharkiv region.

Volunteers from Starch help driver Kevin Roddam load the van ready for the journey to Ukraine. Picture by FRANK REID
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Margaret added: “It feels surreal that we've been able to collect so much in such a short space of time, we’ve had so much support, it’s incredible.

"We’re supporting Ukraine and trying to do our bit. The donations are vital and I’m so grateful to everyone who came down here to donate.”

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Margaret Gregg with Items that have been donated to STARCH (South Tyneside Asylum Refugees Church Help) to help its Ukranian appeal. Picture by FRANK REID
Items that have been donated to Starch (South Tyneside Asylum Seekers and Refugees Help) to be sent to Ukraine. Picture by FRANK REID
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More of the items that have been donated to Starch (South Tyneside Asylum Seekers and Refugees Help). Picture by FRANK REID