The Ontario Provincial Council of the Congress of Ukrainians of Canada held a campaign recently to raise the Ukrainian flag throughout the province of Ontario to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence.
On Aug. 24 cities such as Hamilton, Sudbury, Kingston, Barrie, Oshawa, Durham Region, Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor and the Niagara Region held a flag-raising ceremony to show support for Ukrainian Independence Day.
Toronto’s CN Tower was lit up in yellow and blue on the Aug. 23, and Niagara Falls was illuminated in blue and yellow. Other cities such as London encouraged their communities to buy and hang Ukrainian flags near their homes and on their cars. Other towns held events and picnics in celebration.
There have been many individuals and groups that have and will be doing their own fundraising. Irene McEvoy organized a wonderful fundraiser for Music Niagara in May, Freedom and Peace for Ukraine. Joseph’s Estate Winery held a fundraiser in March. The Virgil Business Association presented me with a cheque from the Virgil Stampede that was passed on to the Niagara UCC to assist in the settlement of Ukrainians arriving in Niagara. Adrienne Briggs from
the Niagara History Museum organized a Fundraiser for Ukraine on Aug. 18 in partnership with the Niagara UCC and the Holodomor National Awareness Tour.
I’d like to personally thank Ironwood Cider House, Regal Florist, NEOB Lavender, Forrest Lane Design, BBQ & Fireplace Centre and Winemaker Katherine Reid who were some that donated to this fundraiser.
To date I have handed out more than 2,500 sunflower seed packets and bulk seeds to our local community to hold their own fundraisers or plant individually. SunflowersforUkraine.ca would like to thank Stokes, Gaia Organic, West Coast Seeds, William Dam Seeds and McKenzie for their generous seed donations. Several individuals and businesses like NEOB Lavender, Lakeshore Cemetery and the NOTL Community Garden all planted sunflowers to show support for Ukraine.
I wrote a letter to the editor thanking NOTL Horticultural Society members who toured my garden and dropped off donations for the Help Boutique located in St. Catharines. I also put out a call to the community asking for donations for Ukrainians who have and will be settling in the Niagara region. I was taken aback by the support from the NOTL community. Not only were items dropped off that were on the wish list but also, Harry Penner from Penner Home Hardware dropped off a cheque for $2,000.
After dropping off a car load of items to the Help Boutique on Saturday I stayed for a few hours to help organize. What a humbling experience! I couldn’t hold back the tears driving home. I offered a lady a ride home after she picked up some items. She declined, saying “it’s okay I have my bicycle, and my son will help.”
I saw children’s eyes light up with the simplest toy they picked up, and a teenage boy trying on some used pants and walking out with two bags of clothes thanked me.
On Sunday, Aug. 21 at Lipa Park in Pelham the Niagara UCC held a Meet and Greet picnic not only for the newly arrived Ukrainians but also for the entire community. The cheque was handed over for the resettlement program for the newly arrived Ukrainians to the Niagara Region. MacSween Farms donated a large container of fresh fruit which was handed out to some of the families who attended.
The Meet and Greet was a happy time, as well as an emotional one, seeing families who have come to a new country, some not knowing the English language but eager to learn, and all with smiles on their faces. Many are looking for work, young, eager to learn the language and start school. All had their own stories, whether single mothers with children or older women in their 70s or 80s. You could tell some of the older folks have obviously not had an easy life.
Irene Newton, president of the Niagara UCC, has worked tirelessly night and day to help these Ukrainian families, as have many others, like Christine Tymczyszyn at the St. John’s Ukrainian church in St. Catharines. The Niagara United Mennonite Church on Niagara Stone Road has also raised a large amount of money which was passed on to the Mennonite Central Committee with funds donated for Ukraine. There are many in the NOTL community who have been and will be there to help . . . thank you.
The Niagara UCC has opened a Help Boutique for these families at 1 Currie St. in St. Catharines. This property is owned by Saint Cyril & Methodius Ukrainian Catholic Church.
To drop off at Currie Street please call to arrange a drop-off time with Niagara UCC, 905-684-8643, or in NOTL call Shirley Madsen, 905-468-2325. Their wish list includes monetary donations; new toys for kids; diapers; dry goods (oatmeal, canned meat, tuna, instant coffee); staples and canned goods; personal hygiene products; gently-used winter clothes and boots for adults, teens and children; cleaning supplies; and new linens and towels.
I’ve learned that some of these folks have degrees in many different fields. For now, they are willing to take a job doing anything, anywhere.The only problem may be transportation. Someone mentioned to me one man had a law degree and also a certificate in meat processing and butchery. The lady I spoke with said she talked to her local meat store and he was hired immediately.
There are many businesses in the Niagara region that are short staffed. “Looking for help” signs are everywhere! Approximately 300-plus families have arrived in the Niagara Region.
One young man was disappointed he was too late in registering to Niagara College. Currently he and his mother are working in a hotel. The majority of these families are in Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Welland, however, other towns like Vineland, Beamsville and NOTL also are home to some. Anyone looking to hire? Maybe someone can arrange transportation and pick up locations . . . just throwing this out.
Many of these people are mothers and children with their husbands or brothers still fighting in Ukraine, so they have come here with very little. Some have found family or friends here that will take them in, which is great. Those who don’t, don’t really have anybody. Unfortunately, some
have ended up in homeless shelters.
Irene Newton is reaching out to property managers who would be willing to work with them and arrange low-rent housing for six months or so, until they can get on their feet.
Ukraine continues to struggle for democratic values and independence.