Chase Ben-Ezra, Zach Homer and Luke Linovitz
In late February, as Russian troops invaded Ukraine, videos of war, devastation, and displacement filled screens around the world. For Birmingham Groves students Chase Ben-Ezra, 16 of Franklin, and Zach Homer, 17 of Birmingham, as well as Seaholm student Luke Linovitz, 15 of Birmingham, the images permeated their social media feeds. The civic-minded high schoolers wanted to do something to help, so they put out calls on their Instagram accounts, asking friends, family and neighbors to donate in support of the people of Ukraine. The response was far beyond what they anticipated.
“We wanted to do something together that could be helpful to many other people and have great impact,” described Ben-Ezra. With his family, he passes out Thanksgiving meals each year to those in need, and all the boys describe being raised in an environment that emphasized the importance of giving back.
“We gathered winter hats, winter gloves, hand warmers, foot warmers, first aid kits, flashlights. I think some tents even,” recalls Homer. “Most of it was for warmth. We also sent a lot of food – emergency food that can last a while.”
Over a span of a few weeks this past spring, the teenagers’ front porches were used as drop off locations for collecting these goods. What they thought would be a few boxes of items to donate turned into over 100 large boxes, far too much to fit in their family cars.
“I couldn’t tell you how many packages were at our house. My mom was flipping out that we wouldn’t have enough space in our own cars. We had been planning on using my dad’s pickup truck, but we couldn’t fit the stuff in all six of our cars,” said Homer as they recalled renting a U-Haul in order to get all of the goods to the Hamtramck warehouse operated by Standard Trucking Company that was working directly with Ukrainian aid organizations.
Once the boxes got to the facility, they described a complex operation of more than 100 people who unboxed and sorted the donations to be shipped throughout Ukraine.
“We were trying to help unload, and there was a train of people passing boxes. Ten of them just jumped in the truck,” said Ben-Ezra.
Ben-Ezra and Homer, who have been best friends since preschool, and Linovitz, whose mom and Ben-Ezra’s are best friends and whom they have all known since they were young, said that part of the reason they wanted to give back was the fact that the woman who cleans Homer’s house is from the Ukraine, and he was able to hear first-hand the direct impacts that the war was having on the residents who lived there. The boys’ mothers researched organizations through which to donate, but the rest of the work was up to the three of them.
While there was a huge influx of donations during those early days of the war, the boys are aware, through their daily news digest from Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter, that the need has not abated.
“We want to continue doing other community service. We have more ideas, and more projects as time goes on.”
Story: Hillary Brody Anchill
Photo: Laurie Tennent