Photo:Vladimir Gendelman, founder and CEO of Company Folders, Inc. (headquartered in Pontiac), a member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), is helping humanitarian efforts in the war against Ukraine.
As millions of Ukrainians continue to be displaced by the war in their country, a local entrepreneur is working to focus the stream of aid flowing into the region.
An emigrant from Kharkiv, Ukraine, Vladimir Gendelman, the founder and CEO of Company Folders, Inc (headquartered in Pontiac), is a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). EO is a worldwide network of 16,000 business leaders in 61 countries that focuses on professional networking and development, and they are now an integral force in providing help to those in need.
As refugees began to pour out of Ukraine, members of EO’s Poland chapter shifted their focus to humanitarian aid, helping to house and feed those fleeing the war and sending supplies into Ukraine. At the same time, EO members around the world and across the US started using their trusted network to raise funds to support the European EO members providing aid. As these efforts expanded, Gendelman quickly realized a coordinated effort would deliver help more efficiently and organized a workgroup within MyEO, a platform where members can create and engage in initiatives, they are passionate about.
“Ten million people have been displaced, four million outside Ukraine and another six million within Ukraine—children, women, and the elderly. They are flooding into villages and small towns that do not have adequate resources. There are shortages of food, shelter, medical necessities—all the day-to-day needs,” says Gendelman, whose company employs a team of Ukrainians who have been displaced. “There is no single project that helps all of them—there is a variety of projects. So, we wanted to create a hub where people can donate to the project they choose.”
Gendelman collaborated with Jenny Feterovich, managing partner of Parliament Studios and incoming EO Detroit President, to create RealHelpforUkraine.org, which collects and distributes funds directly to vetted grassroots relief efforts.
“We realized that people want to donate, but feel frozen,” says Feterovich, “They don’t know who to give money to, and they’re afraid that the money they give won’t reach the people they’re trying to help.”
Gendelman told the Michigan Chronicle that his worldwide organization (with chapters all over Europe, the U.S., Latin America, Australia) is helping in a major way.
“When this (attack against Ukraine) happened we now have more employees in Ukraine and helped them get to safety . … We right away started to raise funds here because we get requests from people in Ukraine. … We need food, hygiene items, medical supplies, all sorts of humanitarian help. We are sending it … directly to people but most cases send cases to counterparts in Poland, Romania, Germany and they purchase whatever supplies are needed.”
The site, developed by Maria Petrenko, founder and creative director of Hadrout Design for Business, allows contributors to donate to aid projects to feed and shelter refugees, deliver medical supplies, provide education, and support the LGBTQ community. Visitors to the site can select a project that resonates with them or donate to the Real Help for Ukraine general fund, to support all the projects.
“Entrepreneurs are people who are experts in solving problems,” says Gendelman. “This is a group of extremely successful people who know how to get things done. And we’re all volunteering. So, we collect money, and it goes directly into the hands of people who are assisting.”
David Gatchell, a member of EO Austin, and his wife, who is Romanian, traveled from Texas to Romania three weeks ago to help ensure donations are put to good use. “I’m humbled by all the donations coming from EO members,” said Gatchell. “We are working with a local organization that has been helping refugees find transport and shelter since the beginning of this crisis. They have the connections since they set up the housing arrangements but after four weeks, they ran out of funds to feed everyone. I’m very happy to be able to fill their shelves, even temporarily.”
As the war wears on, the situation evolves constantly and groups providing aid are constantly adapting. They are also keenly aware that whenever it ends, the work of rebuilding the country and the lives of those displaced will be immense.
“We don’t know when that will be, but we know the real work will start after the war,” says Gendelman. “I’m personally grateful to be working with this incredible group of entrepreneurs who roll up their sleeves to help and pull the resources together to make a difference.”
To donate, visit https://www.realhelpforukraine.org/.