Hello good friends. Normally you hear from us about all the great food we are featuring or the incredible producers or farmers we are supporting in our local food chain. Today I wanted to pass along some news about an incredible friend of mine who has chosen humanity over self and has flown to the border of Ukraine and Poland to help with the flood of refugees in that war-torn region.  

Mark Kovach and I taught skiing at Keystone Mountain in Summit County, Colorado years ago, and we forged an instant relationship that has lasted 30 years. Mark is a passionate entrepreneur, always getting involved in opportunities, and raising a great family with his wife Chantal and two wonderful kids in Steamboat Springs. Upon hearing of the plight of mothers and children fleeing Ukraine, Mark immediately texted me and said he was hopping on a plane and heading to the border. I told him I thought he should be patient, but that’s not Mark’s nature: He quickly organized a boots-on-the-ground effort in Steamboat Springs; raised $30K through Venmo; packaged up over 2,500 goodie bags for kids with Hot Wheels, Stuffies, and candies; and promptly purchased a one-way ticket to Warsaw, as well as a vehicle to get to the border. I’d say that’s a pretty good week.   

Mark has not asked me for help. But if you are anything like me, sitting around and doing nothing is just not going to fly. Our game plan here at WFM to support those impacted by the war in Ukraine includes three action steps. Please consider one of them. All are equally worthy.

  • You can send prayers and messages to Mark via his email markkovach@yahoo.com. He would love to hear from you.
  • When shopping at Farmers’ you can round up for World Central Kitchen, a worthy nonprofit that is helping feed thousands of families at various border crossings.
  • You can send money directly to Mark at his Venmo account (@chantal-kovach). At times Venmo asks for the last 4 digits of the phone number; if so, they are 2100. Stacy and I sent $1,000 the other day. Monies raised for Mark are going directly to fund his boots-on -the-ground efforts.

I’ve included a recent email from Mark on the following page so you can learn more about his work on the border.

Thanks for reading. Normally we don’t get too involved in the politics of the world as we try to keep our attention on Feeding Our Community and helping our own families in a very local Vermont way. But, with thousands of families with kids being displaced every day due to bombs and military warfare, I just cannot stand by and do nothing. Helping raise capital for Mark and other good organizations is the best I can do. Mark is a true hero in every sense of the word, and I am so proud of my incredible friend. Cheers to Mark – and all of the other courageous people out there – making a difference for humanity.

~ Patrick Crowl, Woodstock Farmers’ Market

Mark’s most recent email (March 30)

Volunteering in southeastern Poland, Mark Kovach hands a comfort kit
to a small child displaced from Ukraine

Hello friends. Thanks in large part to your generous donations, we have been having tremendous impact with both the refugee situation at the border and the war-torn areas of eastern and southern Ukraine. Most of the time is spent on the ground supporting refugees who have fled. I have endeavored to position myself as a first point of contact, both at the Medyka walking border and the Przemysl Train station.

Refugees are welcomed to safety and are handed a small comfort package, assembled by Steamboat Middle School students. The refugees are all women and children with horrific stories of war-torn tragedy followed by an arduous escape. They don’t know if their husbands and fathers are alive. They don’t know where they will be spending the night, let alone the rest of their lives. Many have given up hope of ever returning to their Ukrainian homes.

When we are not working directly on the border, we are using donated funds to support other rescue efforts. Some examples:

  • We purchased a decommissioned Danish Army Medical Trailer that will be used to transport injured Ukrainian soldiers currently on the front line to the safety of a full-scale hospital. 
  • We funded the purchase of a military grade Jeep, which will be paired with the medical trailer; based out of the Mechnikov military hospital, located near Russian occupied communities outside Zaporizya City.
  • Rainy season is approaching the border areas. We funded the purchase of 9,000 rain ponchos; and have pledge funding for an order of 10,000 survival blankets (frostbite is no longer a concern, but people are dying of hypothermia while they wait in the border line.)
  • We are supporting displaced orphans. We are partnered with two groups working to extract children – many of whom have recently lost both parents – to safety. Together they have extracted over 700 children. Of utmost importance is protecting them from falling into the hands of child traffickers, which is a major problem on the border.
  • We provided funding for Border Humanitarian Centers, who are receiving thousands of Ukrainian refugees. These are women and children who are exhausted and vulnerable. These centers have little help from the government or large NGOs. Most support is from self-organized volunteers. We have seen teams from Spain, France, Sweden, and Germany. There are essentially no groups from America. There is much quiet concern around child trafficking. It is very easy for someone to walk in the center and prey on these kids. We will be helping to fund a more secure registration system that will bolster security. Funds will be used for hardware, such as laptops, tablets, and TV screens, to better match registered drivers to transport refugees. We will also consider funding, as needed, for hygiene and first aid items. Donation centers drop off thousands of these items. However, key items are persistently missing, such as women’s health products, moisturizers, stomach relief tablets, and sore throat medicine.
  • We have helped refugee families relocate to Sweden. We are providing room and board in Poland until they can be transported to the Poland-Sweden ferry.

And here is another article from our local newspaper: https://bit.ly/3P22pb3. The paper quotes our donations at $29,000. We have now raised over $50,000; and we are driven to raise more. I take my fiduciary role very seriously. Every dollar raised will have impact helping the people of Ukraine. Please pass this along to all good people who want to help.

~ Mark and Chantal