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Locals playing key role in supporting Ukrainian refugees

Ukraine aid.JPG
Posted at 6:48 PM, Jul 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-19 22:30:01-04

The effects of the war between Russia and Ukraine are being felt around the world, including here on the Central Coast.

From sending care packages to making donations for relief efforts, some Central Coast locals have stepped up to help.

The Pana and Knott families have stepped up in significant ways by assisting refugees directly in Ukraine.

“We were able to purchase about two and a half tons of food and put that into individual bags for families inside of Ukraine,” said Bladerunner hairstylist Mihai Pana.

Pana, his wife and daughter flew overseas in June, purchasing food in Romania and taking it into Ukraine to refugees.

“It was 4 a.m. when we woke up,” said Pana. “We started loading the van and left at 5:30 a.m. We unloaded in Chernivtsi around 12 p.m. We distributed the food and then took about 60 of the volunteers that helped us out to dinner. We made it back home at 4 a.m.”

Reaching the destination was a struggle as Pana’s wife, Rahela, has been battling breast cancer for three years.

Despite feeling worn down, Rahela managed to persist through the adversity.

“My wife was the one that brought the most hope because the day before we left, she could hardly stand,” said Pana.

Arroyo Grande native and owner of Midstate Containers, Jake Knotts, is now permanently located abroad.

“What I'm doing here is really managing humanitarian logistics for our organization as well as other organizations,” said Knotts.

Once the war began, Knotts sprang into action by taking on the role of Director of Restore UA.

“Initially, we just received refugees and found temporary housing for them with Airbnbs and hotels,” said Knotts.

He continued ramping up efforts once he recognized the reality of the situation.

“We immediately started facilitating the movement of aid from Poland into Ukraine for other organizations,” said Knotts.

Knotts has spent 13 years in Ukraine with his wife, Anya, who is originally from the country.

“The atrocities that are taking place are real,” said Knotts. “It's not exaggerated.”

The Pana family is expecting to head back to Romania and assist refugees later this year

“What the Russian soldiers are doing with women and children, it's just heartbreaking,” said Pana.

The Knotts family is currently together, checking in with refugee families spread across Europe.

“Nations have a right to exist without their neighbor attacking them and annihilating them and the world needs to stand up and say this is not okay,” said Knotts.

To find out ways to contribute to relief efforts for refugees in Ukraine, drop off items at the following locations on the Central Coast:

Grace Central Coast Church
1350 Osos St, San Luis Obispo
Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Banner Coffee Company
995 E Grand Ave, Arroyo Grande
7 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Rock Harbor Christian Fellowship
1475 Quintana Rd, Morro Bay
Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday from 8 a.m. - 11 a.m.

Element Christian Church
4890 Bethany Ln, Santa Maria
Sunday 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and Wednesday 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.