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Spreading Love from Wales to Serbia


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Back in the summer of 2013…….  I had the honor of meeting the wonderful crew from “Operation Florian” who provide donated fire equipment to Serbia and other countries around the world.  Haydn Brown, a representative from Operation Florian,  had mentioned that there was another organization from Wales that was doing some AWESOME things in Serbia too. A few weeks later I received a message from them! They had a catchy name “Blazing to Serbia“! We agreed to meet up at the mall in Belgrade, Serbia when they arrived. charWe sat for a few hours discussing our lives, our connection to Serbia and the foundation of the amazing “Blazing to Serbia” organization.   “Blazing to Serbia” has visited Serbia on 12 occasions taking various items of equipment from the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service. The equipment provided includes 93 Gas Tight Chemical suits, over 300 Breathing Apparatus sets and cylinders, approximately 30 sets of hydraulic rescue equipment, over 300 sets of protective fire kit and helmets and various other items used at road traffic collisions, lines and torches.The most amazing part is the 18 fire trucks that they have driven down here and donated to many different cities in Serbia!  It is rare to find such kind and giving folks who have no ties to Serbia, but who have such a passion to help the country and its people!!  The ONLY thing that they are asking from all of us, is to help keep this wonderful organization going by clicking “LIKE” on their Facebook page!

I sat down to interview the leader of the “Blazing to Serbia” crew, Steve Logan! Here is what I found out:
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1. What is “Blazing to Serbia?

A. Blazing to Serbia is an initiative of the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service, whereby a small group of volunteers acquire Fire Service vehicles and equipment and then donate them to the Fire Services in Serbia.

 

 

2. Who does it consist of and why did they join?

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A. The Blazing to Serbia team is made up of Operational Firefighters from across South Wales, together with former Young Firefighters and friends.

 

3. Out of all the countries out there, how did you choose to assist Serbia?

A. Serbia was selected by accident. Due to my involvement with the Young Firefighters scheme, which operates all across South Wales, I decided to get myself a youth working qualification. On the course with me was a Scout leader who had recently returned from Serbiawith a group of Scouts. Whilst there they had visited a Fire Station and found that the fire engines were really old. He then asked at what age the trucks were replaced in South Wales and so the seed was sown. This was September 2006 and in March 2007 we made our first visit to Serbia.

 

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4. What did you guys know about Serbia before making your first trip here?

A. Yes I knew that Serbia was part of the former Yugoslavia and had a vague knowledge of the recent Balkan conflict. Other than that I didn’t know anything at all.

 

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5. Tell me a bit about your first impressions of Serbia when you first arrived here. How does it differ from Wales?

A. Coming from Pontypridd at the foot of the South Wales Valleys, I was used to mountains and hills all around, but the part of Serbiathat we visited was really flat, so this surprised me. But the thing that I remember most is how friendly and welcoming the people were.

 

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6. How do you guys get your funding, donated vehicles, etc?

A. In order to get the vehicles and equipment form the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service, I gave presentations to the Senior Officers and the politicians who make up the Fire & Rescue Authority. After much persuasion they agreed to support Serbia for a fixed period of time. This period has now expired, so the arrangement that we had is now being reconsidered.

In order to transport the vehicles and equipment to Serbia the team carry out various fund raising events, like packing people’s bags in supermarkets, sponsored events, raffles and social functions. Without the good will and commitment of the Blazing to Serbia team, these fund raising events would not be possible.

The first convoy of 6 fire trucks that we drove to Serbia in 2011 was accompanied by a television crew from our National television station ITV Wales, who documented the journey. This documentary, called ‘Blazing to Serbia, was shown on National TV in November 2011. This documentary can still be seen on our web site www.blazingtoserbia.co.uk Because of the involvement of television, we were able to gain sponsorship for each of then trucks, which made the task of fund raising much easier.

 

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7. How do you determine which city will get a fire engine?

A. Because the Serbian Interior Ministry is best placed to see where the trucks will be most useful and where they are most needed, we donate the trucks to them and they then allocate them accordingly.

 

 

8. What is the funniest story that you could tell us about all of your times in Serbia?

A. It won’t come as too much of a surprise to know that rakija leads to lots of funny situations, but a generally good example can be found on You Tube, just search for Tom Mac Fishing joke.

 

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9. What do you see in the future of “Blazing to Serbia?

A. Fire Services across the UK are experiencing serious budgetary shortfalls and South Wales is no exception. Because of this the future of Blazing to Serbia is in the balance as Senior Officers and Politicians decide whether to sell the trucks, or continue to donate them to Serbia.

Outside of the trucks and equipment, the team has also been working with the Serbia Red Cross at Sremska Mitrovica. The team has helped with the provision of clothing, blankets, shoes and gifts for children and hygiene packs for families. We are also working with two animal rescue centres at Nis and Sremska Mitrovica.

So to answer your question, the future of Blazing to Serbia is uncertain in its current format, but if trucks & equipment is not available, then we will concentrate on other things. However, it would be a shame if we were not able to donate any more trucks, as the trucks also allow us to bring lots of donations to Serbia, at no additional cost.

In July, my future son-in-law James Randell, did an open air concert in the square in Ruma. A couple of weeks ago he did one in Sremska Mitrovica and a second one in Ruma. The concerts in Ruma have been to raise money for the Ruma Rotary Club and for a Bowel Cancer Charity. This is certainly something that we will be doing more of.

There is a saying that goes, “Charity, like its sister mercy is twice blessed, it blesses him that gives and him that takes.” The experience of driving across Europe in a fire truck and being able to make a positive difference in people’s lives has certainly made an impact on me and influences my thoughts and the way that I lead my life. This would be the same for the other team members too. Young people in theUK very often get a very bad press, so the fact that Blazing to Serbia has lots of young people who are thinking of others, often before themselves, can only be a good thing and benefit communities in Serbia and in Wales.

 

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10. I really loved to hear about your little shoe boxes for the kids. Didn’t you run into some issues with customs last time? How did the kids react to them?

A. In December 2013, we sent a lorry load of equipment, ladders and clothes to Serbia. Whilst we were collecting these goods, I thought that it would be nice if we could send some gifts out for the children. I messaged the Red Cross at Sremska Mitrovica and they agreed that this would be a great idea. The team then set about collecting and filling 268 shoe boxes, with gifts for needy children. The contents of the shoe boxes varied, but contained items such as coloured pens & pencils, felt pens, crayons, chalk, calculators, note pads,colouring books, soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste and toys, puzzles and sweets of every different type.

The Serbia Customs Service is always a challenge, but thankfully we are always able to resolve things eventually.

The intention was for us to visit a couple of weeks later and then help the Red Cross to distribute the shoe boxes. However, the shoe boxes did not clear customs until we had left the country, but the photographs that we saw ensured that the effort that we made was worthwhile.

Seventeen of the team visited Serbia 4th – 8th November and brought just over 400Kg of gifts and hygiene products with us. These were made into gift bags and we spend two days with the Red Cross, distributing them to needy children. This is an experience that will not only live with us for the rest of our lives, but will also influence the way that we lead our lives. Everyone was so happy to see us and were extremely grateful for our support and concern.

 

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11. How can all of us that read this article help ensure that your awesome organization … continues? Is there something that we can do?

We really need people to visit the Blazing to Serbia Facebook page and give it a LIKE. We then need people to SHARE it with their friends and ask them to like & share it too.

Follow us on Twitter @BlazingToSerbia

On our web site we have a section for ‘Our Followers’. If there are any Serbian Celebrities, Politicians etc out there who would like to give us a photograph and some words of support to put in this section, it would be great.

We need to raise the profile of Blazing to Serbia in Wales & in Serbia, so any sort of media coverage would be great.

 

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Posted by on December 21, 2014 in Through my eyes, What others think

 

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My Serbian Food in Pictures


Karađorđeva šnicla

Karađorđeva šnicla with potatoes, bread, and a sopska salad

One of the reasons that I have yet to leave this country is the vast amount of delicious foods! I wanted to share some of my past food experiences with you. Hope you enjoy!

Easter dinner with colored eggs, stuffed peppers, pork and lamb soup

Easter dinner with colored eggs, stuffed peppers, pork and lamb soup

 

Homemade meal from a friend's house in Nis

Homemade meal from a friend’s house in Nis

Kafana meal with cevapi, fries, sopska salad and Zajecarsko pivo

Kafana meal with cevapi, fries, sopska salad and Zajecarsko pivo

Sarma, pickled peppers, green onion and homemade bread

Sarma, pickled peppers, green onion and homemade bread

 

Fish soup (ribala corba) bread, and Zajecarsko Pivo

Fish soup (ribala corba) bread, and Zajecarsko Pivo

 

Komplet lepinja. Specialty from Uzice, Serbia.  Grease from a roasted lamb on bread with egg and kajmak

Komplet lepinja. Specialty from Uzice, Serbia. Grease from a roasted lamb on bread with egg and kajmak

 

Fresh fish from a small village near Uzice

Fresh fish from a small village near Uzice

 

they raised these fish in a stream by the restaurant

they raised these fish in a stream by the restaurant

 

Mixed meat platter from Kod Srbe

Mixed meat platter from Kod Srbe

 

cevpai, steak, and big cuts of pork with some fries and veggies

cevapi, steak, and big cuts of pork with some fries and veggies

Sopska Salad

Sopska Salad

 

pizza with something called "beef sauce" smeared all of it

pizza with something called “beef sauce” smeared all of it

 

plate of fresh roasted lamb at Mokra Gora

plate of fresh roasted lamb at Mokra Gora

 

different meats from a restaurant at Zlatibor

different meats from a restaurant at Zlatibor

 

Gurmanska pljeskavica

Gurmanska pljeskavica

 

palacinka or Serbian pancake

palacinka or Serbian pancake

 

Eurocream and Nutella... sweet creamy hazelnut spread they put on pancakes

Eurocream and Nutella… sweet creamy hazelnut spread they put on pancakes

 

a few of the condiments you can get on your burgers

a few of the condiments you can get on your burgers

 

Sarma or stuffed sour cabbage rolls... my favorite

Sarma or stuffed sour cabbage rolls… my favorite

 

meat tray from a friend's party

meat tray from a friend’s party

 

big pljeskavica with bread, urnebes, and fries

big pljeskavica with bread, urnebes, and fries

 

little pumpkin pies

little pumpkin pies

 

cheese pies with spinach in them

cheese pies with spinach in them

 

snack tray of pavlaka, ham and fried zucchini

snack tray of pavlaka, ham and fried zucchini

 

my favorite snacks... cheese, ajvar, crackers and a big bottle of Zajecarsko Pivo

my favorite snacks… cheese, ajvar, crackers and a big bottle of Zajecarsko Pivo

 

after dinner drinks of Nescafe and boiled wine

after dinner drinks of Nescafe and boiled wine

 

Serbian traditional drink, rakija that was served in a glass of crushed ice

Serbian traditional drink, rakija that was served in a glass of crushed ice 

 

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2014 in Through my eyes

 

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Greatest Serbian Leader and Hero


Srpski_Vojnik Feb. 1912 by Stefanovic

I have traveled to almost every corner of this great country. It amazes me to find such differing views in such a small place! Serbians are very open to me about their politics and their personal beliefs. I never judge anyone and usually just sit and listen. I am interested to get an idea of where my friends and followers stand.

Please vote on these two polls. I will study and read up on the winners and provide an interesting blog post about them. The “Serbian Hero” question was left with an option to add your own!

Thank you in advance!!! Please join our new Serbian website…… SAY SERBIA….. http://sayserbia.com/. We are trying to create a place to bring together Serbians, foreigners that are interested in Serbia, and create a place to find out about EVERYTHING Serbian! Feel free to click on a category and add your input, pictures, opinions, videos, etc.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2013 in Through my eyes, Uncategorized

 

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A First in Serbian History???


Serbian history dates back many years before Jesus Christ… so… if you can accomplish a first in Serbian history,  you have done something remarkable! 🙂

1st female volunteer squad in Serbia!

1st female volunteer squad in Serbia!

My old buddy in Nis, Dejan Mirkovic, contacted me one day asking me for help. He is the  head of the volunteer fire squad in Nis, Serbia. He has been a good friend of mine for a few years. He was reading about the donated sports equipment that I was able to pull together for Serbia. He asked me if there was any way that I could attempt to find some fire equipment for his fire squad! It wasn’t just any fire squad, it was the first women’s volunteer fire squad in the history of Serbia! 🙂

I have noticed a difference in the place of women in a Serbian household. The lady of the house tends to serve all the food and then stand back while everyone eats. Once everyone is finished she will clear the table and then fix herself a plate. It makes me a tad bit uncomfortable. I don’t like to see someone waiting on me. 🙂

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I told Dejan that I would love to attempt to help this historic squad! I spent a few days emailing different fire departments in the USA. I had a few responses from some of the departments. My hometown of Greenup, Illinois was one of them that said they would love to help, but they had just donated some of their old gear to a small community in Illinois. 🙂 One day I stumbled upon an organization called Operation Florian. http://www.operationflorian.com/ They are a wonderful organization out of England. They are a group of average firemen that decided to help their fellow firemen regardless of what nation they come from. England is a country that has very high standards on fire equipment. They must replace it every few years regardless of the condition. They heard that many countries were struggling with ancient equipment or lack of any at all. They decided they would do something about it. They have grown into a large humanitarian organization that provides fire trucks, safety equipment and training to firemen all over the globe!

1,300,000 Dinars worth of equipment that was donated to Nis!

1,300,000 Dinars worth of equipment that was donated to Nis!

I happened to get in contact with a wonderful human being named Haydn Brown. We started discussing their amazing organization. I told him about my friend’s problem. He promised me that he would see what he could pull together for him. He also discussed the donation of a fire truck to Serbia. They found a city that was really lacking in that department. We attempted to get in contact with many different politicians and important people to get this release form that is needed to donate an emergency vehicle that was manufactured with the steering column on the left side. We worked for a few weeks trying to get a response from someone and had NO LUCK. The organization pulled the fire truck donation and found another country that was easier to get through the “red tape”. 😦 He contacted me a few weeks later and said that he had pulled together 10,000 British Pounds or 1, 306, 100 Dinars worth of fire equipment that he would be delivering to Nis the first week of May. 😮 They even pulled together a brand new helmet, protective clothing, and boots for me!!!!!  WOW!! That was some fantastic news. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2013 in Through my eyes

 

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FAMOUS HOLLYWOOD ACTOR WAS A SERB!


It’s really strange that I stumble upon a Serb or Serb story everywhere I look. This little tip was passed on to me from a beautiful Serbian gal. I was seriously shocked to find out about this. I never would have dreamed that actor Karl Malden was a Serbian American. Karl Malden was best known for his nose. He broke it twice during his youth and it lead to the rounded, large nose he had the remainder of his life. I remember him best from his part in war movie PATTON and is probably best known by the rest of the world for his supporting role in STREET CAR NAMED DESIRE.

 

Karl Malden was actually born with the name Mladen Sekulovich or Младен Ђорђе Секуловић in Serbian cyrillic. He was born on March 22, 1912 in my state of Illinois. His father, George  Sekulovich, was a mill worker and milkman that worked hard to see his family succeed. He was very proud of his Serbian roots and passed it on to his children. George’s family was from the city of Belica… in todays Republic of Srpska in Bosnia/Hertzogovina. “My mother and father knew all about hard work and dreams,” said Karl.”When my father came to the United States in 1906 from the tiny European village of Bileca, Hercegovina, he brought nothing with him but hopes and dreams.”

Karl spoke ONLY Serbian until he entered kindergarten and was fluent in Serbian until his death in 2009 at the age of 97. Karl was Malden’s father had a passion for music, and organized a choir. As a teenager, Malden joined the Karagorge Choir. In addition, his father produced Serbian plays at his church and taught acting. A young Malden took part in many of these plays, which included a version of Jack and the Beanstalk, but mostly centered on the community’s Serbian heritage. In high school, he was a popular student and the star of the basketball team.He completed high school and hitchhiked to Arkansas to talk to a university about a scholarship. He could have had one but refused to play football and basketball. They sent him packing. He went back home to his parents home. By this time, his father, Petar, had left the mills and was working as a milk delivery man for Cloverleaf Dairy in Gary, a position his father kept for 38 years.

“Working in the mills was hard work, but it was good money,” Malden said.

“I started out as a laborer making $3.49 a day and later, got moved to an even harder position as a bricklayer that had better pay for $5 a day. And for three long and hard years I wondered to myself if this was where I was going to end up for the rest of my life. Finally, I decided I couldn’t stay.”

He said his change in careers came from a “subtle calling” in 1934.

Once a year, the drama departments at Horace Mann, Emerson and Lew Wallace high schools teamed up to present a series of one-act plays.

“To make a little extra money, I helped some of the guys build the sets and scenery for these plays,” Malden said.

“And while watching what was happening on stage, I thought to myself: ‘I can do that.’ But I was never in front of the scenery for anyone to see me. But I always remembered that during these play competitions, they’s always bring in a judge from the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.”

Since he was still working the 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift at the steel mill, he decided to go to Chicago one day and visit the Goodman Theatre to ask about the opportunities for acting school.

“They asked me how much money I had, and I told them I had saved my every dime from working in the mills, which was about $300,” he said.

“Well, they told me the school tuition for a year was $900. But the man in charge of the school made me an offer I’ll never forget it.

“He asked me if I was a gambler. He said if I paid the $300, he would take me on and if I worked hard and proved I had talent, somehow he’d find the rest of the tuition money for me.”

It was during his Goodman Theatre years that he met “the most beautiful woman he’d ever scene.” This young Goodman Theatre actress was Mona, his future wife and after he graduated in June 1937, they courted and were married in 1938. They even starred together in The Goodman Theatre’s production of “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

But after he finished his theater training and before the couple’s wedding, Malden returned home to Gary for a short time, and his father helped him get a job as a milkman to earn enough money to travel to New York in October 1937 to pursue an acting career.

“The one thing my dad told me before I left was: Don’t ever do anything to disgrace the family name.”

It was in New York that Malden found an agent and began making the rounds for stage work, which introduced him to the young man who would become famed director Elia Kazan, who gave him his breakthrough role as Mitch in the Broadway production of “A Street Car Named Desire,” a role he later recreated in the movie and for which he won his Oscar in 1951.

At the time of their meeting, Kazan was starring on stage opposite actress Frances Farmer in “Golden Boy,” and got Malden a part as the manager of one of the fighters.

It was also during these early acting years, and especially after he got his agent in New York, that he also officially changed his name to “Karl Malden,” something he never wanted to do because of his family pride and Serbian heritage. He said it was Kazan that also pushed him to make the change, partly because he believed the young actor’s real name Sekulovich sounded “Jewish” (even though it wasn’t.) When his future actress wife Mona Greenberg arrived to New York, staying with relatives and also looking for work as an actress, she also changed her “official” stage name to Graham.

“Even if I changed my name for the marquee, I never forgot it, and I never let my parents think I forgot it,” Malden said with a big smile, raising his glass of iced tea to clink classes as he toasted, “here’s to Northwest Indiana.”

Malden then shared examples of all the times he “cleverly” inserted his real last name “Sekulovich” into the dialogue of the famous films he made as a family tribute he knew his parents would recognize when they watched him on the big screen.

“In the film ‘Patton’ (1950), there’s the scene when the jeep I’m riding in gets blown up and we’re thrown to the ground,” he said. “And you can hear me say to the young soldier: ‘Get my helmet, Sekulovich!’ ”

“And in ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’ with Burt Lancaster, I play the warden and in one scene I call out to one of the prisoners by the name of Sekulovich. I know over the years I made more than one script girl probably scratch her head and start flipping pages.”

Malden said his father got a particular shock when he heard the family name mentioned in “Birdman of Alcatraz.”

“My father said to me: ‘There’s never been a Sekulovich in prison before!’ ” Malden recalled.

Malden even introduced the name Sekulovich in his award-winning TV show, “The Streets of San Francisco.”

It seems that every Serb I know is proud of their heritage! They never forget their roots. May Mladen Sekulovich REST IN PEACE!

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2012 in Through my eyes

 

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Another American Trying to Help Serbia


One thing I really enjoy in the morning is opening my mail and reading all my emails, comments, Facebook messages, and Youtube messages. Take it from me, they are not all positive. 🙂  I receive numerous amounts of “HATE MAIL” too. The mail I tend to enjoy the most is from other Americans and foreigners that traveled to Serbia and left with the same feelings as me.

Mr Robert Osborne sent me a letter on Monday. He is an American that  traveled to Serbia in 2010 out of curiosity. He left with many of the same feelings that I did. Since 2010, he travels to Serbia three or four times a year!!! He works for a very successful fundraising company and had the opportunity to meet with many Serbian owned charity organizations during his travels to Serbia. He said he was shocked at how passionate most of the employees were. They told him that many times they go without a salary, but realize how important their jobs are! He offered his assistance to a number of Serbian charity organizations. One of his speeches was delivered in Serbian!  He found out that the majority of Serbian owned charities throughout Serbia wanted his help reaching the SERBIAN DIASPORA!! In case the word “diaspora” is foreign to you, it means : someone who has to flee their homeland due to war, strife, persecution, etc. We all know that hundreds of thousands of Serbians were forced out of their homeland during the numerous wars they have encountered from the 1940’s till the early 2000’s. The large majority of them would do anything to see that their country and countrymen are taken care of. I have been honored to have met members of the Serbian community from many different countries…. Australia, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Germany,  France, England, Denmark, The Netherlands , Austria, Italy, Czech Republic, Switzerland, etc…. It is shocking to see and hear the amount of LOVE they still hold for their country. It is truly amazing!

Back to Mr Osborne…….. He decided to do something positive for the Serbian community and to assist the Serbian owned charities. He has created a fundraising campaign on the world-famous site IndieGoGo.           http://www.indiegogo.com/jaserbia?a=1145580           Please, please take a moment and watch the video and read about this fantastic mission. I threw in a few dollars and would love to see the rest of you DIASPORA do the same! I know money is hard thing to part with in this day and age, but everyone has $5. Why not ignore your craving and leave that  pack of smokes at the store, don’t drink that 6 pack this weekend, stay at home and eat a bologna sandwich tonight!  I am not a Serb, but will always hold them dear to my heart. If you are unable to donate ANYTHING…. PLEASE SHARE THE LINK or shoot him a message of THANKS!!! Exposure is what this campaign needs!

Robert also started a blog about Serbs. http://serbianngonetwork.org  I would appreciate you taking the time to check it out !! He is a good man with a big heart! People like him are hard to come by. He doesn’t get paid to do this, he just does it because he cares! These people need to be recognized in this greedy, corrupt, and cruel world. THANK YOU, ROBERT!

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Through my eyes

 

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Sports Equipment Donations to Arrive in October


The day has finally arrived. The 800 lbs of baseball, softball, and soccer equipment that we gathered in Greenup, IL is officially gone! It is currently being loaded onto a semi trailer that is bound for a Maryland shipping yard. It will then be placed onto a barge where it will sail to Montenegro and then be trucked to Belgrade in middle October. This result couldn’t have taken place without the kindness and generosity of regular citizens. I listed EVERYONE that played a part in this remarkable feat at the bottom of the page. THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART!  Watch the video I made about all the equipment…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCyeu6c-4tQ

This idea popped into my head after watching my buddies from Gradnulica Beckerek play a baseball game. I was stunned when they had to go over and ask the opposing team to borrow a baseball bat!! Also… only a couple of the kids had baseball cleats!!! I thought of all the baseball gear that I had owned as a child. Most of it I used once or twice and disregarded. The average American household is not filled with endless streams of money like many people around the world like to think. We struggle with house payments, car payments, property taxes, high food prices, etc……. BUT, One thing I have noticed after living in Mexico and Serbia is we do have more LUXURY items than most other countries. I can remember having around 6 pairs of baseball cleats, 5 or 6 baseball gloves, ENDLESS amounts of baseballs, every new video game console that came out onto the market , etc. Many of these items I used a few times and stuffed them into the closet. This is not the case in many countries around the world. I found it interesting that in Serbia it is not considered rude to talk about your income. I was invited to many of my friends homes and got to meet their parents. They would tell me their monthly income and I would try to keep my jaw from dropping in dismay. How ANYONE could support a family with shelter, food, clothing, etc on $400 a month is beyond me!!! I heard this same story from numerous people throughout Serbia. That old saying about “not appreciating what you have” is so true! After seeing the kids ask the other team for a baseball bat… i wanted to ask ” Why the hell don’t you buy your own!” Then you think back to the $400 a month family income!!! A baseball bat is the LAST THING this family needs to be purchasing. The idea hit me!! I would contact my local newspapers in Toledo, Greenup and Charleston, IL.

My TINY hometown that a HUGE heart!!

September of 2011 the Toledo Democrat, Greenup Press and Charleston Times Courier published my story about Serbia and my desire to help bring unused sports equipment to the kids. The second it hit the papers my Facebook and email were flooded with requests from people who wanted to assist in gathering it, storing it, moving it, etc. I was blown away! Businesses, family members, friends, community members and total strangers were offering their help. My mom emailed me and said ” Where the hell are we going to put all this stuff! ” hahahaha… I should have informed them first. They are in the midst of building a new home and fighting some medical issues. They didn’t need the added stress of dealing with this big project. It is really hard to start something like this in your hometown community while you are on the other side of the ocean in Serbia! hahaaha..It stressed me out to no end. I would get updates from my mother on how many things were there. I would look up shipping prices on the internet and would shudder when I saw the prices!!! I thought to myself…. “THERE IS NO POSSIBLE WAY WE CAN GET THIS OVER THERE!” I was depressed and thinking what I would tell the kids, the community that gathered it , etc.. 😦 A couple great people donated some funds to help store it, move it, and help pay for the shipping BUT we were looking at THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS! The US embassy in Belgrade contacted me offering assistance with shipment if I could get it to the Ohio military base. They just needed weights, dimensions, etc. The problem was so much of it had not been delivered so i had no idea how many packages or what the weights were. I finally decided to go back the USA on May 29th of this year. I wanted to see how my mother was doing and help with the construction of their new home. I made manyyyyyyy phone calls, sent many emails, etc while at home to try to make something happen. I posted the email addresses for the guys at the US and Serbian embassies on my Facebook page with a message to all my friends to email them and ask for assistance. It wasn’t long before both embassies had contacted me asking me to please have the emails stop!! ahahahah… The gentleman at the Serbian Consulate was the BEST!!! He said that he found a Serbian/American businessman that loved my devotion to the kids of Serbia and said he would pay for all of the shipping! I just needed to get it to Chicago!! WOW!!!!!!!!!!!! This was exactly what I wanted to hear!!!! I packaged it all up and contacted my Chicago Serb buddy, Danijel Vukosavljevic.

My buddy, Danijel Vukosavljevic showing his Serbian flag after picking up all the donations. HVALA BRATE!!! Volim te!!!

He owns a trucking company in Chicago called P&D transport.inc  He was more than happy to drive the 3.5 hours down to my parents and pick up the equipment and drop it off at the storage facility! WHEW!!!! My blood pressure dropped a few points! 🙂 The best part about this….. the Serbian/American businessman is willing to continue paying the shipping for any donated items to his home country. I want to do more!!! This doesn’t have to end. I had some Serbian kids contact me about tennis equipment and rowing equipment too. OH!!!!! We will have one more shipment late this year or next year. My WONDERFUL cousin and her husband wrote me asking if I would be in need of 60 sets of American football pads and 50-60 football helmets! I told them that we would love to have them. The Serbian consulate asked me to assist them in locating more of it because they do not have the funds for this type of equipment and many teams are in need! I posted something about this equipment on my Facebook page and had 7 teams contact me asking for the equipment! THERE IS A LOT OF NEED!

I am very interested in starting a non-profit organization that would solicit used sports equipment for Serbia. Baseball, soccer, basketball, rowing, tennis, water polo, etc… maybe even help build sports facilities in some of the smaller towns. If anyone has any information about starting a non-profit in the state of Illinois let me know! This would let larger businesses and more people donate because they could write it off their taxes. 🙂 DON’T TELL ME I CAN’T DO SOMETHING!!!! 🙂

This goes to show that regardless of our governments past and current strife….the regular citizens can unite for a good cause!!!

Thanks to all of the following individuals that helped make this a success. Aqua Air deserves special mention!!! Milos was my contact and was so helpful and friendly.  The owner, Mr Jovan Babic has a special place in his heart for his country. He is paying the thousands in transport charges! Milos Bajic is a very proud Chicago Serb. He donated 4 boxes of soccer gear for the Zrenjanin soccer team!!! Love you man!!  I hate making a list because there is always someone I forget. A GREAT BIG THANKS TO JORDAN MOSER!! He is a very kind young man that wanted to donate his VERY nice equipment bag and equipment!! YOU ROCK!!  Here are the rest that helped make it happen:

The Serbian Consulate in Chicago,Tasha Shaffer, Jordan Moser, Shay Shaffer,Gary Hasgen, Gerry and Dordina Mixon, Amy Polic, Karen Blade,  Danijel Vukosavljevic, Amanda Black, Dan and Julie Ponce Brandon Miller, Adam Fifield, June Hayden, Jenny Morgan, Pilson Auto Center, P&D transport.inc, JK Mitchell, Toledo Democrat, Greenup Press, Charleston Times Courier, Vlasina Travel, Cumberland High School, Champaign schools, Salt Fork High School, Charleston High School,   Lake Land College, First Neighbor Bank, Casey State Bank, Danyel Reeve and to all of those listed below….

  • nik rhoades
  • Dragana Djordjic-Vidovic
  • Andjelko Jovanovic
  • Dario Debeljak
  • Milos Vukotic
  • Dušan Knežević
  • Andrija Dudic
  • Ivan Jelisavcic
  • Tiha Puaca
  • Angela Skocic
  • Marijana Stojadinovic
  • Mario Maric
  • Marko Nikolic
 
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Posted by on August 25, 2012 in Through my eyes

 

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