A group of officers with the Calgary Police Service have pulled together loads of donated equipment and clothes that is making its way into the hands of Ukrainians overseas.
Sgt. John Langford, an instructor at the police academy, estimates more than 450 kilograms of equipment was donated.
"[I'm] proud of all the members from CPS who are stepping up and helping out," Langford said.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Cst. Pavel Adaikin, whose wife is from Ukraine, knew he wanted to find a way to help.
He started by asking the Calgary Police Service's media unit if they could post a link internally for Red Cross donations. But then he learned of a clothing and equipment drive being organized by an officer in another district, and he "jumped right on that."
Donation bins were set up in every police facility in Calgary, he explained. Emails and messages were sent to employees, asking if they had any police equipment they were willing to donate for officers to use in Ukraine.
About a week later, Adaikin received emails and calls saying the bins were "overflowing."
"I was shocked at how many people were touched by this war and how generous people were," said Adaikan, who was born in Kazakhstan.
"When they donated it all, I just couldn't believe it. All this brand new equipment, brand new clothing. It really shocked me."
Hundreds of items gathered
The CPS used eight to 10 cargo vans to gather all of the equipment, which included about 400 pairs of boots, 300 pairs of tactical pants, sweaters, gloves, backpacks and socks, among other things, Langford said.
Langford also has personal ties to Ukraine, having travelled there five times since 2014 to help train the National Police of Ukraine.
When he heard a group of Calgary officers, many of whom are Ukrainian, were doing the drive, he too "jumped on board."
"It's good to collect this stuff. It's a tangible thing that we can do here on the other side of the world," he said. "But truly, I wish I could do more."
Langford believes his counterparts in Ukraine will really appreciate the equipment.
"After working with them and seeing their equipment, it is dated... We have the luxury here in Canada — and especially with CPS — to get new equipment on a very regular basis and they don't have that luxury over there," he said.
"So some of our gear that has been worn for a year or two is is going to feel pretty much brand new to them."
The officers worked with Aourika Lioutenko, a member of the Ukrainian community in Calgary, and a local Ukrainian church to get the items shipped to Edmonton to be loaded onto a plane to Poland in March. From there, the items are being distributed to those who need it in Ukraine.
Any identifying labels were removed from the gear before it was sent off.