Volunteers Needed: Ukrainian Aylmer Donation Centre at Galeries d’Aylmer
The recently founded Ukrainian Aylmer Donation Centre is quickly building momentum after receiving a large amount of donations from across the city over the past several days. Located in the Galeries d'Aylmer near the library entrance, the centre provides free items for newly arrived refugees affected by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. While the flow of donations speaks to the generosity of Aylmer residents, the organization’s founder Rachel Cousineau says that there is now an urgent need for volunteers to help with organizing and preparing the clothing and other donated items for distribution.
Cousineau, an Aylmer resident and mother of three, started the organization after she began collecting donations in preparation to host a Ukrainian refugee family at her home later this month. Guy LeBlanc, the Director General for the Galeries Aylmer, offered to support Cousineau’s initiative by setting up a donation bin during the Aylmer Pasta Festival on April 23. LeBlanc offered Cousineau an empty storeroom in the Galeries after she explained that the amount of donations exceeded the space she had available for storage. “After the pasta festival, there were so many donations that I didn’t have space for them, on top of all the other items I had already received. After Guy offered the empty storeroom in the mall for the donations, I decided to open the store,” said Cousineau.
The centre is currently open two or three times a week and Cousineau has plans to start hosting regular events for newly arrived refugees, the details of which will be posted online on the organization’s Facebook page. There will also be an information kiosk set up in partnership with the Accueil-Parrainage Outaouais (APO) in the coming weeks, to help new arrivals with tasks, such as registering their children in school and setting up their social insurance numbers. While the centre’s main mission is to support Ukrainian refugees, newly arrived refugees from any country affected by conflict or other crises are also welcome to visit the centre and benefit from its services, and support its efforts by volunteering.
Cousineau stated that anyone is welcome to volunteer and that there is a particular need for volunteers who are available during daytime hours since the store is usually open during that time. “It is the 3rd day since I opened the centre and I have already received so many donations. So there is a lot of work to do to organize all the clothes by size and by gender, etc… There is a big need for more volunteers and we will need even more when the centre opens for events.”
According to the most recent statistics from the United Nations, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has displaced nearly 12.8 million people, over 5.5 million of whom have left the country since the war began on February 24. “A lot of people, when they see what is happening on the news, feel like there is nothing they can do. When I started this initiative, I realized there is actually a lot that I can do” said Cousineau.
To volunteer at the centre, contact Rachel Cousineau on the organization’s Facebook page “Ukrainian Aylmer Donation Centre” or by email at email@example.com.
While the centre still welcomes summer clothing donations, there is a significant need for diapers and baby formula as many of the refugees are women and children. Furniture items such as tables, organizers and shelves are also needed so that the store can be ready for visitors as soon as possible.
Photo: Clothing donations at the Ukrainian Aylmer Donation Centre ready to be sorted. Trilingual sign donated by Sioui Promotions & Design.
Photo: Greg Newing