The Town of Babylon is launching a fundraising effort for Ukraine that aims to collect $25,000 through the town’s businesses for refugees fleeing the Russian invasion.
Supervisor Rich Schaffer said the town’s Industrial Development Agency will coordinate the effort by reaching out to IDA clients, local chambers of commerce and the general business community.
"We felt that the monetary collection was the best way to do it," he said, noting existing clothing and medication drives.
The money will be given to the Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Church in Lindenhurst, which Schaffer said will use a charity to distribute it to refugee assistance groups in Poland and other neighboring countries where an estimated 1 million Ukrainians are now living. The goal is to raise the target amount by the beginning of April, Schaffer said.
The refugee situation is likely to be a "very long-term thing," Schaffer said, "with different aspects of the country being destroyed and overrun and refugees having to resettle in various countries, which probably on their own don’t have adequate resources to handle these refugees coming in."
Schaffer said he hopes to "blow through" the goal and to eventually have the town "adopt" a refugee community and provide continual support.
"You have this energy going on right now, but what we want is for this to become a sustained effort," he said. "This is an international thing that we can’t turn our backs on."
The 75-year-old Holy Family Church is one of four Ukrainian Catholic churches on Long Island, said the Rev. Olvian Nicholas Popovici. He said the church has more than 500 parishioners, about 80% of whom are recent immigrants from Ukraine.
"Everyone has family there — brothers, sisters, parents — many, many relatives," he said.
The church has shipped more than 300 pounds of medical supplies to Poland that should reach Ukraine by Monday, he said. About 500 boxes of clothing and other donations are ready to be sent. Donors have arranged to have volunteers drive a truck to Chicago, where a cargo plane will take the supplies to relief organizations in Poland. From there, the supplies will be driven to Ukraine, Popovici said.
"Our community did a wonderful job," said Popovici, 49. "Lindenhurst, Copiague, the whole community has been supporting us, praying with us."
The Lindenhurst Knights of Columbus have been spearheading a collection for the church at Legis. Kevin McCaffrey’s (R-Lindenhurst) office. Parishioner Suzie Bolger, 29, is leading a donation drive on Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. at the church that will feature Ukrainian music. Bolger, whose extended family has fled Ukraine to Poland, began by posting on social media and said she has been overwhelmed by the response.
"I was just hoping that a few people would be interested," she said. "It completely blew me away."
Lindenhurst resident Volodymyr Semenyuk, 54, has been helping box up the donations every night at the church, even while he worries about the safety of his daughter and young grandchildren in Ukraine.
His daughter lives in the western part of Ukraine, he said, which is "not as much a disaster" as the eastern part being invaded by Russia.
"But it’s still bad," Semenyuk said.
Nataliya Sova, 72, cries every day. Her daughter, three grandchildren and 7-month-old great-granddaughter live in Lviv in western Ukraine. They do not want to leave because the baby recently had COVID-19 and the family worries about the dayslong journey to Poland.
Sova’s son-in-law voluntarily patrols the streets at night for signs of Russians as part of a civilian security force. Her daughter and grandson help make nets to camouflage Ukrainian tanks.
"Right now we are talking every day," said Sova, who emigrated from Ukraine 25 years ago. "Every day I am crying, I am scared because I don’t know what will happen."
Sova works as a home health aide and was sending money to her family in Ukraine "so they have a better life." Now every day she watches the destruction of her beloved country on the news.
"My heart is crying," she said. "Sometimes I can’t even look."