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SALT LAKE CITY — Six men from Utah left for the Ukrainian border on Thursday to help refugees fleeing the war.
Some of the men lived in Russia as they served missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there, and they still have friends in the area. As they departed Salt Lake International Airport, they carried the emotional and financial support of their communities.
"We happen to be in a position where we could go help. We have the support of our families and friends and coworkers, and we have this opportunity and decided to seize it," said James McCoy, one of the humanitarian volunteers.
Brian and Amanda Grow, of Kaysville, started organizing the humanitarian mission only a week ago, and the financial support and manpower grew quickly.
The men are bound for the Ukrainian border in Moldova.
"They need the help," Grow said. "So, we said, 'OK, we'll bring some more troops.'"
Last week, he and his wife were just putting the pieces together on this humanitarian mission. But now, a bigger group than they expected is on its way to the Ukrainian border because generous donors delivered more than the couple expected in financial aid.
"People in the community wanted to do something, and it allowed us to raise more funds and more awareness," Grow said.
In Moldova, they will join other volunteers already doing humanitarian work. Four of them speak Russian and previously volunteered near the Ukrainian border.
McCoy and Grow were together in Russia nearly two decades ago.
"Knowing the people, understanding their culture, just feeling the connection to them, we were feeling a desire to go help, and these people have lost everything through no fault of their own," McCoy said in an interview at the airport.
In one week, the group raised more than $25,000 on GoFundMe*. Their children and friends raised money through bake sales and generous donations.
Each day in Moldova, they will use three rented vans to deliver supplies to refugees at the border and then drive refugees where they need to go.
"It might be a train station to send them further into Europe. It might be taking them to another family who has offered up their home," Grow said.
They will also give refugees blankets and SIM cards.
All six men paid their own way so that the money raised goes directly to refugees who need it.
"We've got support coming from all avenues, and so we see these funds as sacred, and we want to go over there and use them as effectively as we possibly can," McCoy said.
The humanitarian volunteers said they're excited to get this mission going, and they're humbled by the extraordinary support.
*KSL.com does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.