Many times throughout the day, Bev and Melanie get goosebumps. It’s caused by the stories and the special moments they share with their team of volunteers at the newly-opened supply centre for refugees from the Ukraine.
Located at 130 Weber Street West in Kitchener, the Waterloo Region Support For Our New Ukrainian Neighbours started to take shape in March, when the crisis in eastern Europe was unfolding.
Despite only just meeting on March 15, Bev Finnegan and Melanie Todd collectively knew they had to take action and do whatever they could.
Momentum began when the St. Sophia Ukrainian Church in Waterloo called and said they needed their basement full of supplies cleared out in one day. They jumped at the chance to get a local supply chain started, by moving the boxes into a church in Baden and sorting the goods, before moving in the new location on April 28.
Bev and Melanie then opened the donation and collection centre doors on May 9 with clothing for all ages, toys, games, hygiene products, and some non-perishable food items.
Since then, it’s really the stories that stand out and help keep their inspiration levels high.
People fleeing the Ukraine show up with one small suitcase per person, often less when kids are travelling with them. They do not have the room to bring much clothing or personal items that many of us take for granted each day.
Alex and Irina came one day for supplies then showed up two days later to volunteer and do what they can to help more Ukrainians coming. The two of them struggle with English but use Google translate on their phone to communicate with the team.
"It takes a community”, says Bev. Ridgewood Holdings Inc., the landlord, donated rent and hydro for the beautiful 4200 square foot brick and beam space. Staebler’s own Charity and Community Committee made a direct donation to help cover some of their costs. Then there’s the outpouring of support from individuals who give what they can.
From blankets to backpacks, shoes to scooters, Bev and Melanie have been blown away by the generosity of Waterloo Region’s residents. They haven’t been heavily advertising the need or receiving any traditional media attention as of yet. Their Facebook Group has been the word of mouth that’s fueled the increased support.
The call now is to sustain a healthy level of supplies to meet the need for new Ukrainian people coming into the centre. They are hoping for some corporate sponsors to come aboard.
Items in high need right now include running shoes, lunch bags, backpacks, baking supplies, hygiene products, pillows, and youth/teen clothing.
In their first week of being open to the community, a grandmother stopped in and needed a pair of shoes. She stopped in to see Bev and Melanie and ended up in tears when she finally found a new pair in a box that fit her comfortably.
It’s moments like that, where they all break out with contagious goosebumps.
To support Waterloo Region Support for Our New Ukrainian Neighbours, you can donate items or make a direct financial donation at 130 Weber Street West in Kitchener (Unit 101), Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, between 10:30 am-4:30 pm. The entrance is off the back parking lot, down the little path marked by sunflowers.
For more details and the latest updates, you can visit their Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/498155705277130/
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