LAST UPDATED Dec 20, 2004
Local Residents Recognized with Community Caretakers Award
At the third annual meeting of Ukrainian Gift of Life, Inc., the founders of the organization, Kathy and George Kuzma were recognized by Shaklee Corporation for enhancing and prolonging lives as well as heightening community awareness of a critical need. Paul Weinrich and Ann Banta, Shaklee representatives presented the Community Caretaker Award and $1000 check to be used by the foundation in its endeavors. "Through a compassion for others in Ukraine, your resourcefulness has provided urgent medical care which was otherwise unavailable, much less affordable in their homeland," wrote Charles Orr, Shaklee Corporation President and CEO, in a letter read at the ceremony.
On Anne Banta’s nomination form she explained, "Ukrainian Gift of Life identifies children in Ukraine who need heart surgery, meets their needs by raising $2,000 per child to bring the child and parent to America and coordinates a pool of volunteers who offer spiritual and physical support. She continued to explain that advanced cardiac surgery equipment is not now available in Ukraine and families could not afford transportation costs if afforded the opportunity for surgery in America. The average wage in this nation, which emerged from the Soviet regime in 1990, is $77 per month, but workers are owed over $2.5 billion in back wages. Surgery in all of the cases have been provided by Montefiore hospital in Bronx, NY for a small stipend to cover consumables, with cardiologists and surgeons donating their time to perform the surgery and aftercare. The chief cardiologist at Montefiore, Dr. Henry Issenberg recently accompanied the Kuzma’s on a fact finding trip to Ukraine. "It will be a generation," reported Dr. Issenberg , "before these complex surgeries can be performed in Ukraine."
The citation continued, "your commitment to helping improve the lives of young children in Ukraine has encouraged others to rise to the cause including medical staff who provide the care, host families who open their homes and their hearts to Ukrainian parents and the vast array of people who donate supplies, money and their time." Families in Bergen County who have opened their homes to parent and child include a couple who lost a child to a similar disease and the family of Assemblyman David Russo, who hosted the most recent child to return home after successful surgery. Translators include retired people who found new purpose in their lives. To date, 25 children have been sponsored by the organization to participate in the Rotary Gift of Life program. One of the children, Khrystyna Bahlay, was recently featured in a story by The Bergen Record and CBS News for having touched the hearts of two elderly ladies who are benefactors of the program. "Each has been touched by your generous spirit and your commitment to helping others,’ the award concluded.
Shaklee Corporation provides nutrients, herbal products, skin care, personal and household products that are in harmony with nature. Kathy and George became involved with Shaklee when they witnessed positive results for themselves and elderly family members suffering from overmedication and Alzheimer’s. They decided to build a Shaklee customer base so that they could offer the nutritional products to the children they bring from Ukraine for open heart surgery who are all iron deficient.
In accepting the award and donation, Kathy Kuzma pointed out that all who have participated in the program are rewarded by witnessing the courage and trust of young mothers who have journeyed to a foreign land with a sick child. George Kuzma added, "an important by-product of this effort is that the mother and child become ambassadors of goodwill, changing the image of the self-centered American capitalist, created by communist propaganda to the reality of Americans generously opening their hearts to save the heart of a child."
For further information about this not-for-profit foundation, call 201-652-4762 or contact Ukrainian Gift of Life, Inc. at 233 Rock Road, Suite 333, Glen Rock,NJ 07452.