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Bear's BBQ owner teams up with World Central Kitchen to help feed refugees on the Ukrainian border

Within days of signing up, Jamie McDonald was just five miles from the border, helping feed people streaming in from war-torn Ukraine

MEDYKA, Poland — Jamie McDonald watched the situation in Ukraine unfold and knew he had to do something. 

McDonald, the owner of Bear’s Smokehouse, saw that the World Central Kitchen was setting up facilities to feed refugees streaming across the Polish - Ukrainian border. So he signed up to help. 

“They had need immediately. So two days later, I was here trying to help. Just do what you can, you know,” he told FOX61 News from his hotel room in Medyka, Poland. 

“I'm just the type of person that if I have the ability and the opportunity to help somebody that needs it, that's what I'll do. And I don't care if I have to travel across the world to do it.”

RELATED: Local medical supply donations for Ukrainians shipped overseas

This is not the first time that McDonald has helped out those in need. He has traveled across the U.S. in the aftermath of hurricanes and floods but said this time it's different.

“You know, that stuff is a natural disaster, it can't be helped, you know, whereas this is just a totally senseless war. You know, and you see these people coming through across the border, and it could be your neighbor, it could be your children, you know, it's really heartbreaking,” he said. 

McDonald is working at World Central Kitchen’s main facility, about five miles from the border. He said from his experience, they will be able to push out 100,000 meals a day. Those meals go to five sites on the border, and they have partnered with local restaurants and catering companies to get the food over the border into cities that have been under attack. 

“You can see that they're, they're grateful of course,” he said about the people crossing the border, “but they're also they're exhausted. A lot of them have been traveling for days.” 

“It’s cold here. It's in the 20s and it's snowing, it's been snowing the last couple of days. It takes about 12 hours to get from the Ukraine side to the Polish side. And they're outside there they have whatever belongings they have, you know their entire world is with them,” he said.

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Once they cross the border, they board buses and are taken to a shelter in a converted shopping mall. McDonald said most of the people he’s seen are mothers with children and the elderly.

“When you give them food and you give them something hot to drink, you know just a little bit of brightness come into their face," he said. "And if it helps them for even five seconds, a minute, to feel better about their situation, then it's worth every penny and every minute that we spend doing this.”

McDonald said his family is originally from Ukraine. Seeing all the people helping is amazing, he said, but at the same time very tragic.

“The strength that you see just from the local Polish people, or the Ukrainians themselves is awesome. You know, it's there," he said. "I meet people every day that they're there to help and support and a lot of the Polish people have Ukrainian ties.”

RELATED: Chefs and restaurants in CT help raise money to feed Ukrainian refugees

McDonald said there are people from all over the world who are there to help.

“There's people from across the country that have come from across the U.S. that have come. There's a guy from Switzerland, there's a bunch of people from Spain, Portugal, the U.K., really from all over the place.”

His efforts to bring help include back home as well. McDonald put a donation page on Facebook.

As of Thursday afternoon, nearly $18,000 had been raised for the World Central Kitchen, toward a goal of $50,000. During March, Bear’s is donating 25% of all sauce and rub sales to World Central Kitchen, whether they are bought at the restaurant or the grocery store. 

Follow Jamie McDonald on Instagram.

Doug Stewart is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. He can be reached at dstewart@fox61.com.

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