Omaha woman brings community together to collect winter clothes for Ukrainian kids

Right now thousands of Ukrainians are without running water and electricity as Russia targets critical infrastructure across the country.
Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 5:37 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As the war between Russia and Ukraine continues, one woman in Omaha is taking matters into her own hands to get warm clothes on the backs of displaced kids in Ukraine.

“I hear friends say, ‘Oh I got to get rid of these things.’ They’re in my garage. They’re taking up space. And I know how incredibly appreciated and necessary these things are,” said Kelly Lytle, director of Operation Ukraine.

Lytle is committed to helping kids in Ukraine. She adopted three kids from the country. In the last 18 years, she’s been to the country nearly 20 times. She knows how cold it can get in Ukraine.

And with winter around the corner, she’s working on a large-scale winter donation drive, including warm pants, sweatshirts, hats, gloves, and most importantly, coats.

“What do you do if there’s no heat, if snow’s coming down, there’s ice, and you have no winter clothes for your child. A lot of them fled in the spring or the summer from where they were, from their homes, and the last thing they thought about was grabbing their winter clothes.”

With the help of family, friends, and a GoFundMe page, she’s collected more than 1,000 articles of clothing.

It’s become a community effort. The owner of a local dry cleaner’s business offered their services to make sure items are clean when they arrive in Ukraine.

“I keep track of the news, so this was an easy decision for us to donate our time, and our efforts, and our talents,” said Kermit Engh, owner of Fashion Cleaners.

The owner of three UPS Stores agreed to be a drop-off site to make it convenient for people across the metro area.

He’s from Ukraine and came to Omaha in 2018. The country and its people are still close to his heart.

“Your morning will start with the news. Your evening will end with the news. You always read especially the news about the missiles on Kyiv. The missiles on all the electrical infrastructure in Ukraine,” said Dmitri Kolesnikov, the owner of the three UPS Stores. “It feels terrible, but there are few things we can do. I can help collect this warm clothing.”

Stirnella, a restaurant in the Blackstone District is also offering gift cards in exchange for coat donations. The Daily Ledger is providing storage space for the clothes, and the Assumption Ukrainian Catholic Church is also helping with the effort.

Lytle started collecting donations in October. She plans to send her first shipment once they’re finished at the Fashion Cleaners.

In order to get them into the hands of families that need them, she has three friends in small Ukraine towns, who are displaced themselves, that she’ll ship them to. They then will hand out the clothes to families in need.