Locals look to fill shipping container with donations for Ukraine
Gordon Siebring Jr., a longtime Marshalltown resident, has been working with Ukrainian farmers for many years, both from home, in Iowa and in Ukraine, so when Russia attacked, he and his wife Kathy knew they had to help.
Kathy Siebring said Gordon has been exporting used farm equipment to Ukrainian farmers for about 30 years.
“Ukrainian farmers will appreciate anything that maybe for American farmers, it’s too old fashioned or whatever. So he buys it, takes it apart — he has some employees that help him — and then he puts it in a 40-foot shipping container, sends it to Ukraine and then his employees over there put it back together,” she said.
Now, instead of loading a 40-foot shipping container with farm equipment, the Siebrings are endeavoring to load one with supplies for the millions of displaced Ukrainian citizens. Supplies like clothing, nonperishable food, first aid items, personal hygiene products, repair tools and any other humanitarian aid products are needed.
Kathy is leading the donation drive because Gordon is currently in Ukraine. In addition to his exportation business, he also farms 5,000 acres of land just north of Kyiv. Kathy said he used to fly between the U.S. and Ukraine more frequently, but he has been in Ukraine for about two years now after flying in just before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“He got there right when the airports closed for COVID and so he was kind of stuck there for most of COVID, and then it was planting season. He’s been there since March of 2020,” Kathy said.
Gordon, like many Ukrainians, didn’t believe Russia would invade. When it finally happened, Kathy Siebring said he thought about leaving but ultimately decided against it.
“He couldn’t do that. He could not leave these people that he’s worked with for 20 or 30 years, so he just chose to stay,” she said.
While he has yet to see on the ground conflict, air attacks have been frequent. Right now, Gordon’s farm buildings have not been hit by explosives, but his farmland has been. Many missiles are unexploded, meaning he and his employees have to give those areas a wide berth.
“They’re not able to farm the land because there’s no fuel. It’s time to be out in the fields discing (and) spreading fertilizer, but there’s just not enough fuel available for that,” Kathy said.
Gordon’s experience witnessing the destruction firsthand is just another reason the couple is seeking donations to help those in need.
“People have been forced out of their homes, whether they’ve evacuated from Kyiv or some village homes have been hit,” Kathy said. “Some people have lost everything or almost everything.”
Both financial and physical donations to the cause can be dropped off at New Hope Christian Church. Marshalltown Community College (MCC) has a donation drop site near the admission department, Iowa Valley Continuing Education has a box inside door 11, and Ellsworth College and Iowa Valley Grinnell are also taking donations.
Kathy Siebring asked for all donations to be neatly packed in sturdy boxes with labels. This will allow for more efficient loading and unloading of the shipping container.
“It’s spring-cleaning time, so if people would just look through their garages and look through their bathrooms and kitchens and be like ‘I don’t think I need this,'” Kathy said.
Once the shipping container is full, the Siebrings feel confident they can get it through the Ukrainian border by shipping it through Poland. Even if the border ends up closing, however, they are sure the supplies will still be used.
“If the worst happened and the borders all closed, Poland is full of Ukrainian refugees, and so all of this stuff would still get to the Ukrainian people that have been terribly affected by the violence,” Kathy said.
Contact Susanna Meyer at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.