Our Mission

Helping Poland’s Orphaned and Needy All Year Round
By Robert Strybel, Polish/Polonian Affairs Writer

Over the years, readers who had only a vague idea of where their immigrant ancestors came from in Poland have asked for the address of a parish in the general area so they can make a donation. Others have requested the addresses of orphanages and other care facilities in Poland or asked what type of assistance is currently needed. But writing to Poland on one’s own can be frustrating. Letters often go unanswered and one never knows if relief packages sent to an unknown institution will reach the needy for whom they are intended. People donating second-hand clothing may be informed by Polish customs officials that the items have not passed health requirements and had to be destroyed.
Many such problems can be avoided by working through a reputable organization that has already blazed the necessary trails. One such group is the Detroit-based American-Polish Assistance Association. It is headed by an indefatigable teacher, folkdance instructor and lifelong champion of Polish causes, Michał Królewski, now in his mid-50s. Despite a life-threatening illness he suffered a few years back, he still keeps valiantly plugging away and infecting others with his drive and enthusiasm.
This volunteer-based organizations is quite unlike many big high-overhead charities that have extensive paid staff, fancy offices, company cars and generous advertising budgets and use more of their money to cover operating expenses than to help those in need. The APAA works out of a house in the Detroit suburb of Eastpointe. Its dedicated volunteers of both Polish and non-Polish extraction help collect and pack relief goods of every type and send them by the container load to Poland. To meet expenses, they regularly hold bake sales in area parishes as well as other fund-raising events. They are setting up an Antique Vintage Shop that will wash, starch and rethread or reweave second-hand doilies with the profits going to orphanages in Poland. The APAA also raises funds through their Saint Nicholas letter-writing project and the sale of St. Nick stickers. The group’s educational activities include classes in Polish language and culture, folk dancing and crafts including pisanki-making.
Asked what type of goods were needed the most, Królewski told this reporter:
“There is a big need for things from your local dollar stores such as crayons, chalk, colored pencils, regular lead pencils, pens, magic markers,clay, play dough, coloring books, tablets and various school supplies. Clothing is always in demand. It can be brand new, but if used it should be freshly cleaned and free of stains, tears and tatters. Otherwise it may not be admitted into the country as a health hazard. The clothing and footwear can be for children aged 0-16.”
According to Królewski, also needed are Afghans and blankets, vitamins for children and adults and assorted toiletries. These include toothpaste, tooth-brushes, bars of soap, baby powder, band-aids, gauze, medical tape, Vaseline, antibiotic creams, cough drops, powdered soap, diaper-rash lotions, etc. Since all youngsters enjoy sweet treats, non-perishable (not excessively soft and sticky) sweets, lollipops, chewing, gum, life savers and bags of small hard chocolate bars are always appreciated. And various toys such as stuffed animals, toy cars and dolls bring smiles to the faces of those who have so little.
In the poor Polish communities, parishes and care institutions in neighboring countries of Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania, many children have never even seen such toys. Any dolls or stuffed animals that have built in tapes and either speak or make sounds are sent to the centers for blind. Although the bulk of the aid goes to orphans and other needy kids, clothing for adult men and women are also needed. These are supplied to the Felician Sisters center in Warsaw which provides free food and warmth for the homeless. The APAA is now planning to expand its range of relief goods to include larger items such as prams, strollers and even bicycles.
Over the past holiday season, 16 tons of goods arrived in the eastern city of Lublin where they were distributed to 17 orphanages, children’s centers and senior-citizens’ faculties. Although gifts and treats are especially appreciated when Święty Mikołaj (St. Nick) is said to have brought them, at the APAA helping the needy is a year-round effort. Those who want to find a reliable way to assist Poland’s needy or simply receive more information may contact Michał Królewski at krolewskim@aol.com, phone (586) 778-9766 or write: APAA, 23801 Gratiot, Eastpointe, MI 48021.