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BEAUFORT, S.C. (May 24, 2022) – 100,000 MREs en route to Ukraine? That’s exactly what is happening thanks to the persistence of Beaufort Mayor Stephen Murray and Councilman Mitch Mitchell. Their partnership with Marsh Hen Mill, SOPAKO, Total Quality Logistics, and World of Connections will bring these Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) to Ukraine by the end of June.
Mayor Murray, who kickstarted a donation program for the city of Ostroh, Ukraine, after Russia invaded Ukraine, wanted to help Ukraine in other ways as well. He decided to start with food suppliers in South Carolina. “The Department of Commerce and Department of Agriculture helped connect me with folks,” Murray said. “Then, March Hen Mill from Edisto Island agreed to donate 4,000 pounds of grits and 4,000 pounds of corn meal.”
But Murray was just getting started. “I cold called Lonnie Thompson, who is the President of SOPAKCO in Mullins, S.C. SOPAKCO is one of three producers of MREs for the U.S. military,” Murray said. “They also produce emergency meals for FEMA. I explained our sister city relationship with Ostroh and asked if they would be willing to donate any meals. He said send him an email and he'd get back to me.
“Approximately two weeks later he called and said his company would donate 100,000 MREs!”
The next hurdle? How to get the meals and corn meal to Ukraine. At that point, Murray reached out to Councilman Mitchell, a retired Air Force two-star general and retired commercial airlines pilot.
“Mitch said he would reach out to his military contacts and see if we could arrange a military transport,” Murray said. “He worked the phones for a couple of days and ended up connecting us with Charita Shteynberg of World of Connections (an NGO that provides shipping liaison services to distressed countries) and Kathy Cadden of Operation Ukraine. These ladies have been raising money, shipping aid, and distributing it to military and civilian folks in Ukraine through their warehouse in Lviv. They were able to cover the cost of shipping if we could get it loaded and to a port.”
At that point, Murray called Eric Thomason, a team leader at Total Quality Logistics, one of the country’s largest logistics services companies.
“They agreed through their Moves That Matter program to pick up the containers from the Port of Charleston, bring them to SOPAKCO in Mullins for loading, and then back to the Port of Charleston for shipping,” Murray explained.
The ship is scheduled to leave the Port of Charleston this week and should be in Ukraine by the end of June, Murray said.
“Mitch and I are so grateful to SOPACKO, World of Connections, Marsh Hen Mill, and TQL,” Murray said. “Their generosity will make a difference to people in Ukraine who are suffering terribly.”
Photo: Pallets of MREs ready to be shipped. Mayor Murray and Councilman Mitchell at right.
Marsh Hen MillSOPACKOWorld of ConnectionsTQL