HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WSAV) — A man who left his family and business to help the people and animals in Ukraine is back home but his humanitarian work is not finished.
Jeff Prekop left Groomingdales, his dog grooming business on Hilton Head to go to the war-torn country to help his two and four-legged friends.
Spending nearly 10 full days in Ukraine, Poland and Romania, working 10-15 hours at least. Driving 1,100-1,200 miles a day. Helping care for animals left behind in the devastated areas.
“Within the first 20 to 30 minutes were there you hear air raid sirens and you think. Is that an air raid siren?”
It is a sound Jeff Prekop became all too familiar with during his trip to Ukraine.
He drove hundreds of miles across the border in a simple sprinter van filled with supplies, with medicine, and with a desire to help.
“You could definitely see some areas that had been bombed out,” remembers Jeff. “Apartment complexes you can see and factories that had been blown up.”
He was the only American among this group of international animal lovers. All of them together stepped up to save lives.
“They were doing the best they could,” says Jeff. “They weren’t refusing any animals they were coming in and giving them their animals saying ‘we can’t take them.’ They said ‘ok.’ They were finding animals on the street.”
Animals who needed care, needed food. People who walked into the middle of a conflict to help.
Jeff said he was most amazed at the Ukrainian people’s resiliency, and their desire to fight for their freedom.
“Leaving was so emotional because there’s still a warehouse full of food that needs to be distributed and there are supplies that need to go out,” says an emotional Prekop. “There are animals that still need to get out of horrible situations. Knowing that I could be over there still helping. I’m walking through that no man’s land between the Ukrainian border and Romanian border and I literally broke down.”
“You take the little things we do in America for granted, showers, bathrooms, but more things like freedom. There’s a group of people fighting desperately for their own freedom right now,” Prekop said. “Knowing I played a small role in that it does warm my heart but I know there’s so much more to be done.”
Jeff and his wife created “Rescue Paws International” a charity designed to give all its donations directly to the people and animals of Ukraine.
He is still waiting on the official 501-C-3 status and an online presence. But if you would like to donate now, you can drop off a donation at Groomingdales on Hilton Head Island.
He is also working with “HHI for Ukraine” another non-profit designed to help overseas.
And yes, Jeff is already planning his next trip back to Ukraine, to help again.