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Stow company sending vests, armor to Ukraine residents

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Posted at 6:17 PM, Apr 07, 2022

STOW, Ohio — ShotStop Ballistics, based in Stow, typically manufactures and supplies protective vests and armor to agencies such as police, fire, EMS, governments and schools.

But a few days after Russia invaded Ukraine, ShotStop, began receiving requests from several contractors, including government contractors, asking for the protective equipment to be shipped to Ukraine to help keep its people safe.

Skip Gavorski, who does business development for the company, said most of the gear is supplying civilians, but some of it will also help the military.

"We have over 1,000 plates already there and we're working probably on 20 more deals," Gavorski said.

In March, The White House reported an additional $800 million U.S. security assistance package for Ukraine, which included 25,000 sets of body armor.

ShotStop owner Vall Iliev said he's proud to be part of the effort to provide protective items.

"We're supplying what we are best at which is body armor that stops bullets and saves lives," Iliev said.

During an interview with News 5, Iliev fought back tears while discussing his deeply personal reasons for helping Ukraine during the war.

In 1976, during the cold war period, Iliev escaped communist-controlled Bulgaria, but many of his friends ended up tortured in prisons.

"I lost a lot of good friends," he said.

Iliev made it to America a few years later and landed in the Akron area where he worked for a toy company for several years before he went on a self-employment journey dedicated to protecting others.

"My mission in life overall is to save lives," he said.

Jason Henkel, another ShotStop employee, also feels a connection to the Ukrainian people because his wife, Tanya, is from there. When Tanya was 12-years-old, she and her family left Ukraine under refugee status.

Henkel said it's not lost on him when he sees reports about the thousands of refugees that are currently fleeing Ukraine.

"It sits on the consciousness. You think about it a lot and you just want to help people," Henkel said. "We need to support these people for more than just a humanitarian reason. People are on the run."

Gavorski said the company also felt compelled to act because of the large Ukrainian population in Northeast Ohio.

"For me personally, I think about families and kids that went to be and everything is normal. The next day, they could have lost relatives, their homes destroyed."

Iliev said he'll continue to make it a priority to ship vests and armor to Ukraine if the requests continue.

"We'll keep sending it for as long as we can afford it and as long as they need us."