Ukrainian-born Wilton resident looks to ‘send hope’ and needed supplies to refugees

WILTON — Ana Schroeder, 20, knew she had to do something when first learning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It was very saddening,” Schroeder said after learning of the conflict in her home country.

Schroeder, who now lives in Wilton, was adopted from Ukraine at 8 years old with her younger brother. After graduating from Wilton High School, Schroeder has been a member of the district’s Community Steps Program, a “transition service” for young adults, ages 18 to 21 with disabilities who are looking to build sound skills for long-term employment in the community.

Working with her transition teachers and job coaches, Schroeder began organizing a plan to help Ukrainian refugees in any way possible. Schroeder linked up with a real estate agent in Bethel who was organizing a “shoebox drive” to send essentials to Ukrainians currently seeking refuge in Poland.

In three days, Schroeder helped collect and package 17 shoeboxes with both essentials and items to uplift the spirits of young children, including toys and coloring books.

Paired with each of the boxes, though, was a personal note from Schroeder.

“I’d say, ‘My name is Ana, I am Ukrainian, and I’m here to send you hope,’” she said.

Schroeder said she enjoyed the process since she understood what it felt like to have less than others and knows how much the recipients of those shoeboxes would appreciate it. A total of 311 shoeboxes, including Schroeder’s 17, were sent in the initial shipment to Poland last week.

“I want them to be joyful,” she said, noting that just “one small thing” can change the way someone feels during a time of need.

But Schroeder is not done yet.

Now, she is looking for donations from community members for essential items specifically targeting women, young children and infants.

Self-care and female hygiene products, as well as diapers, blankets, winter clothing and pacifiers are among the most needed items.

Schroeder said donation boxes are set up at schools throughout Wilton this week, as well as at Comstock Community Center. Collections will be ongoing until March 17.

“Please help Ukraine and donate,” Schroeder asked of the community. “They have nothing.”

When asked what message she hopes the recipients of the care packages gather from these offerings, Schroeder simply echoed a continuation of charity.

“I hope they pay it forward,” she said, adding that, if they can, to “do it for other people” in the future as there will “always” be people who need a helping hand.