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Joe Kan, a former Bay St. headhunter who is heading to the Polish/Ukrainian border, on March 10.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The organizer: Joe Kan

The pitch: Helping Ukrainian refugees in Poland

Joe Kan had his bags packed for a trip to Mexico last month when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. He quickly changed his mind and this weekend he’s leaving for Poland to help Ukrainian refugees along the Polish border.

He’s not going empty-handed. Mr. Kan has loaded two suitcases with supplies, including men’s underwear, and he’s received nearly $20,000 in donations from colleagues and friends to buy more necessities when he’s there. “Not too long ago, I was in a really bad situation and a good friend went above and beyond to help me out,” he said from his home in Toronto. “Well, now there’s a whole bunch of people at the Polish border who are in a really bad situation and I’m in a position to help.”

How many refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion?

His plan is to head to the border city of Przemysl and volunteer at one of the many shelters that have been set up to help Ukrainians fleeing the war. He’ll join a small army of volunteers from across Europe, the United States and Canada who have come to the city to help. While the shelters have been flooded with donations of food and clothing, organizers have said there are specific needs that haven’t been fully met, such as medicine and underwear for men and women. Mr. Kan plans to use the donations to fill the gaps and buy whatever is necessary.

Mr. Kan, a former Bay Street headhunter who now runs massage clinics called Bodyology, said that when he was younger he might not have responded. “My response to a major crisis like this one would have been ‘I’m just one person, what difference can I make?’” he said, adding that he’s in his 50s. “But as you get older your mindset shifts to ‘I’m just going to go over there and do my part.’”

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