Main Content


Port Jervis Fire Department Deputy Chief Collects Emergency Supply Shipment for Ukraine

This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.

PORT JERVIS, NY – Port Jervis Fire Department Deputy Chief/Past Fire Chief Joe Kowal has a strong Ukrainian background, and is proud of his heritage and its impact on the life he leads. Naturally, when his family’s homeland was attacked earlier this year it hurt Kowal as it did so many around the globe. Kowal immediately began to ponder, although well over 4,000 miles away, how he might be able to help.

“It just hit my heart that they were doing this to my people, and I knew I wanted to do something that would make a difference. I wanted to do something in ways that would help where there was great need,” Kowal said.

Kowal decided to reach out to collect emergency gear from around the region, items that were no longer able to be used by responders due to revisions in United States, state, or local requirements.

He and others put the word out that this collection had been launched, and items that were outdated or no longer needed but in good working order began to trickle in. Kowal credits his grandson, also a PJFD firefighter, for getting the biggest response.

“Once Matt (Kowal) put this out on his social media site that he created for emergency news, the items started coming in like crazy. What we have now is worth a million-and-a-half dollars. It’s all going to the Ukraine, probably through Poland,” Kowal said.

Kowal stored these donations in a large container at the edge of his yard until the container was picked up and transported to New York City for packaging and then shipment to the Ukraine.

The shipment to the Ukraine also contained a special message from Kowal. He placed a letter in a fire coat he wore when he was an assistant chief in his department. The letter shared some of his own feelings on the war and a bit about his family’s Ukrainian connection and heritage.

“I wanted to tell them that I consider the people of Ukraine family and that helping in this way was the least I could do,” Kowal said.

It was Kowal’s grandparents, Anna and Nat Kowal, who immigrated in 1914 from Galicia, Ukraine to Port Jervis. His grandfather was a carpenter and worked for the Erie Lackawanna Railroad in Port Jervis, repairing box cars in the local roundhouse. Anna and Nat lived on Brown Street, where Joe’s father, John Kowal, and siblings were born. The family spoke both English and the language of Ukraine fluently, and strong Ukrainian values continue to be passed down.

“I’m a Ukrainian. I’ve always felt I’m a Ukrainian, and I’m always proud that I’m Ukrainian,” Kowal said. “Ukrainians are proud, hard-working, and will never let you down or give up. They are relentless. They don’t give up. I don’t give up either. I want things done the right way – no exceptions. I was taught to work hard, and you’ll get what you need to get. I have found that to be true.”

At 69, Kowal is still working in the paving businesses started by his father in 1959. He began helping his dad in this business at the age of seven. He attributes his own career success to that early guidance and learning, and to the Ukrainian values with which he was raised.

A careful list of donated items was kept by Kowal as they came in. Among items collected for the Ukraine were 75 helmets, 124 fire pants, 152 coats, 57 pairs of boots, 96 SCBA, 150 bottles, 56 masks, 10 hoods, 18 pairs of gloves, three harnesses, three valves, 13 bailout sets, 20 backboards, four suction units, six defibrillators, three Honda generator lights, two large air bags, controllers, and hoses, one Tic, one Stihl TS 510 saw, one ICS Vest, and miscellaneous bags and suspenders.

The following emergency units and communities were among those who contributed: Mechanicstown, Goshen, Fort Montgomery Fire District, Warwick Vol. Ambulance Corp, Coddenham, Garrison, Yulan, Maybrook, Middletown Fire Departments, and Orange Lake Winona Lake Eng. 2. Arthur Trovei donated the container. Mulch Mart of Route 17 New Hampton will deliver the goods to New York City for Packaging, and fellow PJFD Deputy Chief/Past Chief Jim Rohner took care of the logistics.

avatar image
SHARON SIEGELSenior Correspondent

No information from the author.