Woman Pays it 4ward to Rio Rancho family for helping Ukrainian refugees

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RIO RANCHO, N.M. – Last month, KOB 4 introduced you to a Rio Rancho family who adopted four Ukrainian children 20 years ago.

The oldest of the four kids left to serve his home country, and took along a handful of duffle bags filled with his donations from his community. Now, one neighbor is taking her contribution to his cause a step further.

Eric Rajunas has been working in Poland and Ukraine for about a month. KOB 4 met him as he was preparing to leave his Rio Rancho home – armed with duffle bags full of supplies.

"I was ready to help as soon as everything started," said Eric Rajunas.

His mom posted on the Nextdoor app, asking their neighbors to help his humanitarian cause. They more than delivered.

"I understand not everyone can go over there like me but everyone does want to do their part and that part is donating these items," said Rajunas.

The post and Rajunas’ story, caught Waneta Petree’s attention.

"I was really impressed and inspired by Eric’s dedication and hard work," said Petree.

So, she wanted to Pay It 4ward.

"I feel like I just want to be part of this. I think it’s so great that he’s stepping up to help Ukraine. We all want to help Ukraine right now and we’re all really upset about the situation, so to stand behind them and watch what he’s doing is really a gift. I’m honored to do this," said Petree.

KOB 4 told the Rajunas family we wanted to do a follow-up story on Eric’s experience and work in Ukraine. But Petree took over before the “interview.”

“This is for you guys and all your hard work and to help Eric out in his mission in Ukraine. So we wanted to lift you up,” Petree said.

“That means a lot to me knowing that you guys are back home supporting me and our mission over here in Kiev. It means a lot to me – thank you," said Rajunas.

The Rajunas’ never thought their neighbors would go above and beyond to help their son’s mission.

"The support that they have given is just overwhelming. Really surprising, and fantastic. It’s way more than we ever expected."

As for Rajunas, he’s feeling New Mexico’s love from thousands of miles away.

"This shows me that everyone still cares what’s happening here in Ukraine, what we’re doing in Kiev is good work and that you guys are still supporting us even a month, month and a half into the war," he said.