Volunteer Spotlight: Andriy Furtas
By Kaitlyn Nuebel
Watching a war unfold in his home country of Ukraine, Pittsburgh resident Andriy Furtas decided he had to help. He started a local drive to collect supplies for Ukrainian refugees and the overwhelming community response showed him the power of a chain reaction.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine captured the attention of people all over the world, including those in Pittsburgh. When Brother’s Brother Foundation launched a drive to collect hygiene supplies for refugees and victims of the crisis, the local community stepped up to help. Andriy Furtas, who lives in Point Breeze, Pittsburgh, felt particularly moved to contribute to the drive. With childhood friends who still live in Ukraine, the crisis deeply personal for him.
“[My friends] have the same-aged kids [as I do],” Furtas says. “I call every day and ask them how they’re doing, what they’re doing. It’s making me worried.”
Despite living in Pittsburgh — 5,000 miles away from Ukraine — Furtas began helping his country as much as he could by collecting and shipping protein bars to Ukrainian soldiers. He even let women living in apartment buildings in Kyiv stay at his home in western Ukraine, so they wouldn’t have to carry their children downstairs into bomb shelters every night.
When Furtas heard that Ukrainian women and children need hygiene products, he took his efforts a step further by encouraging the community to get involved. His neighbor, Dennis Inserra, notified the community through the Nextdoor Neighbor app. The Point Breeze Organization also stepped in, relaying the information to hundreds of people on their email list.
Even with the help of advertising, Furtas wasn’t expecting the immense support and kindness that poured out from the community. Over two weekends in April, nearly 300 people from neighborhoods throughout Pittsburgh’s East End arrived at his home with packages of everything from gauzes and thermometers to diapers and body wash.
“I think this is a problem that touched everyone,” Furtas says.
Though Inserra didn’t know much about Ukraine, news about the war hit home—his twin grandsons play with Furtas’ twins at the local playground.
“It was very personal. [The Furtases] are my neighbors,” he added.
With the help of neighbors like Inserra and strangers from all over Pittsburgh, Furtas donated 82 boxes of hygiene products and first aid supplies to BBF. Most of which were packaged by volunteers into hygiene kits that can be easily distributed to women and children in Ukraine who have fled their homes. Boxes containing baby formula and PediaSure—items BBF doesn’t distribute—were sent to 412 Food Rescue which brought them to Light of Life Rescue Mission, a local nonprofit committed to helping families overcome homelessness.
In addition to launching a community-wide donation, Furtas, a dental technician, reached out to Meta Biomed Inc., a dental supply store outside Philadelphia. The company sent seven boxes of supplies, including material to make fillings, to BBF.
“I spoke with my friends who [are] still dentists [in Ukraine] and they said people from East Ukraine forgot the last time they had [a] chance to put [a] child in [a] dental chair and open their mouth and make fillings,” Furtas says.
BBF will ship the hygiene kits to Ukraine this month. The dental supplies will also be sent to Ukraine in an upcoming shipment.
Furtas says the Pittsburgh community’s overwhelming support has opened his eyes to the power of a chain reaction.
“If I give one thread and you give one thread, we can make a t-shirt. If you give a penny and you give a penny, dollar, dollar—we can buy some stuff which will be helpful for other people in countries like Ukraine,” Furtas says. “I’ve started to believe more in humanity.”
Dennis Inserra (left) stands with neighbor Andriy Furtas (right) outside Furtas’ home in Point Breeze, Pittsburgh. | Photo by Kaitlyn Nuebel
David Inserra (left) and Andriy Furtas (right) pose for a selfie in front hygiene supplies donated by locals to benefit Ukraine. | Photo courtesy of Dennis Inserra.
Oksana Olkhovyk, Andriy Furtas’ wife, stands next to a Brother’s Brother Foundation truck parked outside her home as boxes from the community donation are loaded inside. | Photo courtesy of Dennis Inserra.
Natalie Little, volunteer assistant at BBF, and Dan Zebo, a food rescue hero for 412 Food Rescue, load boxes of baby formula and PediaSure into Zebo’s car so he can deliver them to Light of Life Rescue Mission. | Photo by Kaitlyn Nuebel