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The Copernicus Center Has Collected Over 200 Bulletproof Vests For Ukrainians

The center's staff wants to make sure Ukrainians get the protective gear they need.

The Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave., is collecting new and used vests and sending them Ukrainians on the frontlines through a Polish organization working to hand out items to civilians and soldiers at the border.
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JEFFERSON PARK — A Far Northwest Side Polish organization has donated more than 200 bulletproof vests to Ukrainian soldiers and families — and donations keep pouring in.

The Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave., launched a bulletproof vest drive March 10, collecting new and used vests. The shipments have been distributed at the Poland-Ukraine border with the help of a Polish humanitarian organization, leaders said.

Kamila Sumelka, the center’s director, said at least 240 vests have been sent overseas, though more are scheduled to come in this week.

Sumelka said the drive has received a tremendous response thanks to local media attention, so she decided to keep it going as long as there is a need. She said thousands have donated, including retired and current police officers from Chicago-area departments. People from the Northwest Side, the suburbs and nearby states have also donated, Sumelka said.

Soldiers and families usually receive the vests within 24 hours and have expressed gratitude to the volunteers heading the initiative, Sumelka said.

“We can see it’s making a difference, and it’s a great feeling to help,” Sumelka said. “The vests are not just for those on the front lines, but also for kids and families.”

The center’s staff wants to make Ukrainians get the protection they need, Sumelka said.

“We want to give as many [vests] as possible. … This is for whoever needs them,” Sumelka said.

The staff is unable to send vests to specific addresses in Ukraine, Sumelka said.

The center has sent two shipments of vests and trauma kits to Poland and is planning a third one later this week.

Those who would like to donate bulletproof vests, helmets or first-aid trauma kits can drop them off at the main entrance of the center 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday and 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesdays.

The center is open 9 a.m.-1 p.m. weekends.

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