The Rotary way is “service above self” and “one profits most who serves best.” This message hit home for Brian Krusz and Patrick Greco, two longtime Rotary members and Strongsville residents who traveled to Poland in April for 10 days to deliver medical supplies and financial assistance that helped buy two ambulances and medical equipment to aid Ukraine.
Greco was a Strongsville firefighter for 33 years, has traveled to Honduras and El Salvador on mission trips and helped after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Krusz is owner of Sgt. Clean Car Wash and spent eight years in the Marines.
“We heard of the horrific things happening in Ukraine and we started passing the hat, and the journey began just like that,” Greco says.
Donations rolled in, and then a social media update about the group’s efforts went viral, helping them raise nearly $70,000. They reached out to area fire departments and health care organizations and collected five luggage cases full of medical supplies. And then, they connected with two Polish Rotary Clubs and a business group to find reputable, responsible resources that would use the funds and supplies wisely.
“One of the groups was $12,000 short of reaching their goal to get two tactical ambulances, and we were able to help them reach that goal,” Krusz says.
Rather than just sending the funds, Greco and Krusz decided to make the trip. “When I was seeing the lives, the humanity, the devastation, I just said, ‘I need to go,’” Greco says.
Krusz, who is of Polish heritage and felt a faith pull, said, “I’m in. I’ll go with you.”
They traveled to Krakow, Czestochowa, Wadowice and Warsaw. “We provided human connections — we were present and as helpful as possible, whether carrying luggage, listening to someone, passing out candies to the kids, helping in any way possible,” Krusz says.
Refugees flooded in, and the country was organized and prepared, both say. “Refugees would walk up and be asked, ‘What do you need — food, medicine, a shower, clothing?’” Greco says.
For both Greco and Krusz, giving is second nature. “I had a really good family and they always gave back to the community, and I remember my grandpa would ask, ‘What have you done to pay your community rental?’” Krusz says. “He was talking about giving back to the community that gives so much to you.”
Greco adds, “We saw people in need — the look on their faces was like, ‘What’s next? Where do I go? What will happen to me?’ But they were being taken care of so nicely by the Polish people.”
But, the crisis is ongoing and so is the need. Little things — the smallest efforts make a difference. “With all the craziness in the world … this is still going on and I can see it escalating, and so will the need,” Greco says.
Krusz says the message is, “There are things you can do around here to help — maybe a veteran or an elderly neighbor or donating time in your community. We can do important things on a small scale.”