Houses of worship step up for Ukraine

Jim Knoepfel, of Ocala, collects the offering for Orphan Grain Train to benefit the people of Ukraine at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church.

When Shelly Newman saw what was happening in Ukraine, the Village of Fernandina resident knew she had to take action. “My father was born in Ukraine in 1911, and he and his family were persecuted there for being Jewish,” she said. “They were not considered citizens and could not own the land where their home was built. My dad remembered being chased and beaten by Russians near their home, and he had a wound on his leg from that beating that never healed.” Newman leads the “Stand With Ukraine” fundraiser, which is just one of several initiatives at area houses of worship that is raising money for the war-torn country. Newman recently started “Stand With Ukraine” at Temple Beth Shalom in Ocala, where she serves as a trustee on its board of directors, and First Congregational United Church of Christ. The two houses of worship share the same building in Ocala.

“We have the Temple in one sanctuary and the church in the other,” Newman said. “We are very ecumenical, and both houses of worship were quite enthusiastic when I proposed the idea of a fundraiser.”

“Stand With Ukraine” intends to send financial donations to three groups — Doctors Without Borders, a humanitarian medical relief organization; the World Union for Progressive Judaism; and World Central Kitchen, which provides meals in areas affected by war and natural disaster.

“This campaign will continue as long as Villagers and others are willing to donate,” Newman said.

Those interested in making a donation to this campaign can contact Newman at 248-766-4503 or shellyandjoel18@gmail.com.

In Oxford, Orphan Grain Train dropped by Amazing Grace Lutheran Church May 1 for a donation drive benefiting the people of Ukraine. Orphan Grain Train is a Christian volunteer network that ships donated food, clothing, medical and other needed items to people in 69 different countries.

“Since Easter, Orphan Grain Train has shipped four cargo shipments containing 95,000 meals, food pallets, toilet tissue, diapers, detergent, hygiene kits and more,” said the Rev. James Rockey of Amazing Grace Lutheran. “Cargo ships and planes are waiting for more donations and aid to fulfill their commitments of help.”

Congregants also had the chance to hear from the Rev. Bruce Lamont, pastoral adviser for the Wisconsin branch of Orphan Grain Train, who talked about what the network does during worship. When all was said and done that day, the church and its congregants raised more than $6,200.

 Other area houses of worship also are doing their part to help. Congregants at New Covenant United Methodist Church in The Villages recently donated more than $10,000 to the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Hope Lutheran Church has contributed more than $54,000 through Lutheran World Relief. And Knights of Columbus Council 10034 at St. Timothy Roman Catholic Church in The Villages recently donated $50,000 to Knights of Columbus Charities to benefit Ukrainian refugees.

At United Church of Christ at The Villages, people can donate to the UCC Ukraine Emergency Appeal at villagesucc.org/give.

“The war on Ukraine is an act of injustice and violence that has needlessly claimed many Ukrainian and Russian lives,” said the Rev. Joe DiDonato, of UCC Villages. “Each life is precious in the eyes of God. Many innocent civilians have been targeted and have perished. We pray for justice and healing to come.”

Senior writer James Dinan can be reached at 352-753-1119 ext. 5302, or james.dinan@thevillagesmedia.com.