A London, Ont., surplus store, known for its years of experience selling military gear, camping and survival equipment, and other outdoor essentials, is doing what it can to provide assistance to those on the front lines of the war in Ukraine.
Officials with Forest City Surplus Canada, located along Dundas Street in London’s east end, say they were initially approached by volunteers from the group Razom for Ukraine who were looking for supplies to send to Ukraine’s territorial defence forces, a volunteer military reserve of Ukraine’s armed forces.
Tim Hodges, Forest City Surplus’s marketing director, says the business sold its entire stock of solar-powered cellphone chargers, roughly 300 in all, to the group at a large discount. The chargers will allow those in the forces to stay in touch with loved ones.
“War in open terrain like we see in Ukraine is essentially surviving outdoors with a pinch of added firepower. Forest City Surplus has been in the survival, camping and outdoor supply business for 41 years,” Hodges said in an interview Tuesday with 980 CFPL’s Devon Peacock.
“When you combine the two together, it means that we have established relationships with dozens of suppliers that we can contact for large amounts of survival, camping and outdoor goods. We also have a warehouse of surplus products that we can draw upon.”
The store also helped acquire more than 180 wool blankets from a supplier in California, selling them at a “significant discount” to a local GoFundMe campaign launched to send blankets to Ukraine.
Forest City Surplus says it recently helped source just over 2,000 sleeping bags for the territorial defence forces, a challenging task given the approaching camping season.
“With COVID restrictions on the supply system, the inventory wasn’t easy to find. We had to convince two national camping suppliers to clear out a lot of their stock right before the start of the recreational camping season,” Hodges said.
“It took us 10 different models to come up with that many sleeping bags.”
The store says it has also supplied cases of ready-to-eat field rations to Canadian customers who plan to ship them overseas.
“It feels great to know that even though I work at a small business, we have had an impact on a global scale…. It feels great when you are able to help out in this way. It kind of feels like if you are putting your thumb on one side of the scale of justice.”
Canadians and Londoners have been stepping up over the last month to help those impacted by Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Two concerts earlier this month at London’s Aeolian Hall raised more than $70,000 for the Canadian Red Cross’s Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal. The organization says its Ukraine campaign has already raised more than $128 million.
According to the United Nations, more than 4.2 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the war in late February, with more than 2.4 million crossing into neighbouring Poland.
The federal government says it has received more than 91,000 temporary resident visa applications from Ukrainian nationals and their family members, with 14,500 applications approved as of March 30.
Nearly 12,000 Ukrainian citizens, along with returning Canadian permanent residents of Ukrainian origin, have arrived in Canada as of March 27, according to the federal government.