By Nina Nicholson, Diocese of Newark.
A few days after Russian forces invaded Ukraine, Lyubov Ferara, a Ukrainian-born parishioner of St. Elizabeth’s Church in Ridgewood, N.J., swung into action.
Ferara’s mother and the rest of her extended family live in a small town in western Ukraine.
“I couldn’t stay still and do nothing,” she said. She called people and organizations she knew in the local Ukrainian community, including the Ukrainian Orthodox church in Clifton, Holy Ascension Cathedral.
“They said, ‘We are collecting humanitarian aid and here’s the list if you would like to collect or bring anything.’”
The Rev. Andy Olivo, rector of St. Elizabeth’s, offered his church as a drop-off point for donations, and it began collecting items on Ash Wednesday.
“At 10 o’clock, when the parish office opened, we had folks waiting outside the doors,” said Olivo. “Eevery day the hallway outside our offices was just overflowing with donations.”
The Ukrainian cathedral is working with companies that specialize in shipping between the U.S. and Central and Eastern Europe, in order to get the shipments through Poland into western Ukraine.
In fact, the collection of medical supplies, baby supplies and other goods was so overwhelming that on March 7, Holy Ascension stopped accepting donations of goods as they caught up with the donations they’ve already received.
Instead, those wishing to help Ukrainians are encouraged to make monetary donations to a relief organization. “No amount is too small,” said Ferara, who said her 10-year-old son brought out his piggy bank and dumped the contents on the table. Asked what he was doing, he replied, “I want to collect everything and donate it to cover the cost of shipping so these kids can get their clothes as soon as they can.”