DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — A Dover-Foxcroft man and new nonprofit are committed to providing critical aid to Ukraine as human suffering continues and the war grinds on in parts of the country.
Joel Vail, a disabled veteran who works as a COVID-19 outbreak coordinator for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, joined Allied Extract as its social media manager six months ago. The volunteer-run group — which formed in August 2021 to evacuate U.S. citizens, Afghan interpreters and others from Afghanistan — earned nonprofit status in early 2022.
As Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, the organization’s team members, some with personal connections to the country, felt called to respond. Privileged citizens in the United States have access to an overabundance of resources, they thought, and people an ocean away desperately need the help.
Allied Extract’s work has become more important as Ukraine’s tragedies have faded from much of the world’s attention.
Through its intricate networks and partnerships, the group delivers humanitarian and medical aid to Ukrainains in need, including orphanages. Allied Extract is also involved in evacuations of civilians from besieged communities and assists with the transport of critically injured and sick patients from hospitals in eastern Ukraine to health care systems in other European countries.
Allied Extract had one of its members in Ukraine two days after the invasion and began organizing convoys of aid, said Harvey Graham-Green, co-founder and former soldier in the British Army who served three tours in Afghanistan. Aid went to places such as Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Odesa and even Mariupol, which became a symbol of staunch Ukrainian resistance during weeks of relentless Russian attacks.
“These are innovative and brave people,” he said about Ukrainians the group works alongside. “All they needed was supplies and they would literally take care of the rest. It was like, OK, I’m going to do everything that I can to get you everything that I can.”
Vail in Dover-Foxcroft runs Allied Extract’s social media channels. He raises awareness about the tragedies still unfolding in Ukraine and the difference that fresh food and water, medications and other supplies make for those trapped in dangerous areas.
Vail’s father and step-mother own Vail’s Custom Cakes & Icelandic Bakery in Dover-Foxcroft, which began raising money for Allied Extract roughly six months ago and has collected about $500. Locals have also dropped off and mailed clothing, toiletries and diapers.
It may not seem like a large sum, Vail said, but he hopes spreading the word online and at the business inspires other Mainers to contribute. Hel is willing to drive to other parts of the state to pick up donations, he said. Like other Allied Extract team members, he juggles many roles, even managing the bakery’s social media, but the work fuels him.
“I get to wake up every day and know that even if I’m not seeing it first-hand, even if I’m not within 1,000 miles of the efforts, there are people who finally feel safe,” he said.
The Allied Extract team comprises 10 volunteers scattered across the country, according to its website. They work with a number of volunteers, including Ukrainains knowledgeable about where aid is needed most and Afghan refugees who deliver supplies to the border, among other military professionals.
Allied Extract provides coordination, funding and intelligence while working with the Mozart Group to rescue Ukrainians from frontline villages mostly in the eastern Donetsk region, Graham-Green said. They operated in Severodonetsk until it fell to Russian forces.
Twice a week, volunteers — typically former Tier 1 special forces from the United States and United Kingdom, or Ukrainainans who know the ground well — deliver supplies and evacuate civilians who wish to leave, Graham-Green said.
“A lot of people who stayed, when they initially made that decision, there wasn’t a Russian tank at the end of their road,” he said, noting volunteers meet Ukrainians who are profoundly traumatized, most of them living in basements without electricity and other necessities.
Allied Extract also partners with Artesans ResQ, volunteer medical professionals who coordinate the triaging and transport of critically injured patients to countries such as Poland and Germany. The organization financially sponsors Bono Fortis, an orphanage in Chernivtsi, in western Ukraine, and delivers supplies to a handful of others, Executive Director Lydia Novruzov said.
Vail encouraged people to contribute, whether that’s financially or by sharing one of the organization’s posts on social media. To learn more or donate, visit Allied Extract’s website.