#ErieUnitedForUkraine Campaign to assist in Humanitarian Crisis

Wednesday Mar 30th, 2022

In the wake of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on February 24, more than five million Ukrainians have fled the country, creating what United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi describes as "Europe’s largest refugee crisis in more than a century."

Today, the two new leaders of The Erie Community Foundation and United Way of Erie County teamed up to launch #ErieUnitedForUkraine in support of the international effort by United Way Worldwide, a multinational effort to direct much-needed donations to United Way organizations in the countries welcoming Ukrainians fleeing the horrors of war.  President and CEO of United Way of Erie County Laurie Root along with President and CEO of the Foundation Karen Bilowith announced the Erie United for Ukraine campaign at a press conference held March 30. 

“Because of the massive numbers and the complexity of providing humanitarian aid around a war zone, the efforts are stronger when partnering together,” said Root.  “Collective philanthropy is powerful,” said Bilowith.  “Our colleagues at the Pittsburgh Foundation are also partnering with their local United Way.”

The leaders of the two nonprofit organizations chose to make the announcement from the warehouse of Logistics Plus where President and CEO Jim Berlin began collecting items to ship to Lublin, Poland, Erie’s sister city and where many refuges from Ukraine are fleeing.

United Way and The Erie Community Foundation are encouraging donors and the community to donate through the local campaign portal #ErieUnitedForUkraine.  Monetary donations will be directed to the organizations with expertise in humanitarian relief efforts: United Way Romania, United Way Hungary and Fundacja Dobrych Inicjatyw (Good Initiatives Foundation) in Poland.

Working through United Way Worldwide gives the Erie Community assurance that funds will go directly to providers who have the local knowledge and experience to make a difference. Immediate support will be applied to fill needs for transportation, shelter, food and medicines, hygiene kits and supplies for childcare, including infant formula and diapers.  No fees for donations will be charged by United Way of Erie County or the Foundation, but there may be some administrative costs for nonprofit organizations delivering aid in the affected countries.

"Often, the worst of times brings out the very best in people," Root added. "As news of the war unfolds, and the plight of the refugees continues, we are grateful for our partnership with The Erie Community Foundation and our mutual dedication to offer relief and support to the millions of people suffering in the Ukraine. We hope that the public will donate generously to address the tremendous struggles, uncertainty and heartbreak the growing numbers of refuges are facing.”

The partnership evolved because both United Way and the Foundation saw the benefit of United Way as a global organization with members in the affected countries, who know the needs on the ground and can pivot to meet them as they are rapidly changing. 

“The senseless brutality inflicted on the people of Ukraine is heartbreaking,” said Bilowth. “But we can do something through our unified power as a community to help the helpers and reduce some of the misery to those caught up in the conflict.  By donating through #ErieUnitedforUkraine, donors are assured to be giving to vetted, nonpartisan organizations on the ground that are providing vital care to those who need it most.”

The Erie Community Foundation works to improve the quality of life for all in our region by evaluating and addressing community issues, by building permanent charitable endowments and by promoting philanthropic and community leadership. The Foundation signed the Nonprofit Partnership’s Diversity Equity & Inclusion Pledge in 2019 to demonstrate our commitment to our community. To learn more visit

United Way of Erie County is a local social impact organization on a mission to crush poverty. We envision a collaborative community where all students succeed and all families thrive. United Way remains an inclusive organization committed to this mission and vision and rejects all forms of prejudice, discrimination, racism and violence. United Way of Erie County is a proud signee of the Nonprofit Partnership's Diversity Equity & Inclusion Pledge.