About Us

Our Mission

Help our fellow Estonians in need in Estonia
The ERC provides grants to select registered non-profit organizations in Estonia that have the means to use our grants for charitable purposes to reach many in need.

Ensure the future of our Estonian community across the USA
The ERC provides grants to Estonian-American non-profit organizations including youth groups and camps, choirs, folk-dancers, and related projects and events to preserve and promote our heritage, culture, language, Estonian Houses and properties.


The Estonian Relief Committee (ERC) provides financial grants to charitable organizations of Estonian heritage in the United States and in Estonia.

The ERC is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization sustained by voluntary, tax-deductible contributions from the public. It was established in 1941 in New York by local Estonians seeking to aid their fellow countrymen in need.

Since the rebirth of Estonian independence in 1991, Estonia’s government and charitable institutions have increased their aid to the local population while new generations of Estonian-Americans have risen in the U.S.

As a result, the mission and scope of the ERC have evolved to meet the needs of our times in the Estonian-American community while we continue to support select registered non-profit organizations in Estonia to aid the needy.

Recent Grants


  • Estonian Red Cross (Ukraine Refugee Relief)
  • Tallinn Children’s Hospital Foundation
  • SOS Children’s Villages in Estonia
  • Estonian Support Union of the Deafblind
  • Estonian Women’s Shelters
  • Estonian Food Banks
  • Estonian Society of Wounded Soldiers
  • Estonian Association of Injured Soldiers (WWII)


  • Estonian houses, societies and programs: New York, Long Island, Connecticut, Washington, Lakewood, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco & Northern CA.
  • West Coast ESTO 2019 and 2022
  • Estonian Choirs in the USA
  • Estonian Folk Dancing Troops in the USA
  • Participation at 2019 Estonia Song & Dance Festival
  • Estonian Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts in USA
  • Federation of Associations for the Advancement of Estonian Youth (Järvemetsa/Lakewood camp)
  • Long Island Children’s Camp
  • Estonian American Amateur Athletes
  • Foundation for Estonian Arts and Letters
  • Estonian Archives in the USA
  • Free Estonian Word programs


The Estonian Relief Committee (ERC) was established in 1941 to aid Estonians being impacted by World War II. Troops, tanks and warplanes from communist Russia overran Estonia in 1939-40 under the guise that the Estonian people wanted to join the Soviet Union. Deportations of Estonian men, women and children to Siberia occurred soon after. The borders to Estonia were closed, contact was difficult and yet it was clear that financial help for Estonians was desperately needed. The ERC was officially granted 501(c)3 designation as a non-profit charitable entity on October 31, 1942 “…to relieve and mitigate the suffering of Estonian citizens.” 

The idea for the Estonian Relief Committee is credited to the Estonian Consul to the U.S. Johannes Eduard Markus.  The ERC became the first Estonian relief organization of its kind and served as a model for Estonian relief committees that sprang up in other countries throughout the world. 

During the years of 1948-1952, the ERC helped the flood of Estonian refugees find homes in the free world, offered them financial aid, and insured they were treated justly.  Together with the NY Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, the ERC enabled over 12,000 Estonians that were able to escape Russian occupation to immigrate to the USA between 1948-1952. The ERC matched immigrants with sponsors, who provided jobs and living quarters for a set period of time.  The ERC helped Estonians  that crossed the ocean in small sailing vessels called  “Viking boats” (an especially dangerous voyage) as well as those that spent time as “DP’s” in displaced persons camps in Germany.

In the 1950’s the ERC donated funds to Estonian children’s summer camps in Germany,  provided seed money for the construction of an Estonian War Veterans Home in Germany.

In the 1960’s, the ERC expanded its support to include Estonian youth groups and cultural activities in North America by helping to underwrite the Lakewood Estonian Girl and Boy Scout Jamborees of 1964 and 1967 (Koguja).  In Germany, they donated to the Episcopal Grandparents Plan (Vaderabi) for Estonian children in Oldenburg.

In the 1970s and 80s the ERC used donations to send aid packages to needy Estonians via Sweden.

After Estonia regained its independence in the early 1990’s, the ERC expanded its charitable activities to include Estonian children’s hospitals, nursing homes, soup kitchens, indigent families with many children, the handicapped, and orphans caused by the sinking of the Tallinn-Helsinki ferry “Estonia”, and the Estonian Association of Injured Soldiers WWII veterans.  Across the USA, the ERC increased its support for Estonian-American organizations, as listed above, with a focus on youth and promoting our Estonian heritage, culture, language, Estonian houses and properties.

Many Estonians have served on the ERC board and as members since the organization’s inception in 1941. Presidents include: Salme Kaiv, Aleksandra Berg, Erich Harkna, Rudolf Kiviranna, Alfred Anderson, Paul Saar, Voldemar Vaher, Endel Reinpold and Toomas Kilm.

Tax deductible donations can be made by check, PayPal, credit card and VENMO.

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You will receive our annual Christmas letter and occasional Newsletters.