“We have so much power to either elevate or destroy,” a community member said while picking up her meals at the Gardens at St. Elizabeth fundraiser for Ukraine.
The ongoing refugee crisis in Ukraine has flooded Poland with roughly 2 million refugees seeking safety. Within the gates of the CHI Living Communities at the Gardens at St. Elizabeth, the dedicated faculty have worked with St. Mary’s Ukrainian Church in Ford City, Pennsylvania to help raise funds for those who have been displaced.
“I love this community, community is everything,” Chaplain Aram Haroutunian, who has been at St. Elizabeth for five years, said. Haroutunian praised people for being “so generous,” saying that whenever there is a disaster, local or global, he has witnessed great compassion and humanity from his neighborhood.
“This is one way we thought we could celebrate Ukrainian pride and their ethnic food, and we could do a fundraiser,” he said.
With 90 to-go boxes packed with traditional Ukrainian perogies, potato pancakes, cabbage rolls, and cheesecake for dessert, meals were passed out, ready to be eaten amongst family, friends and neighbors. Upon pickup Denver residents were encouraged to donate $10 per meal, albeit many donated much more.
“There has been a lot of generosity, a lot of people have been going above and beyond,” said Pam Waters, Director of Business Development at St. Elizabeth’s. Standing outside the sliding doors, Waters placed meal after meal in big paper bags and thanked everyone for their donations.
In addition, over 100 meals were prepared for the residents of St. Elizabeth, available with or without donation in the dining hall where Haroutunian read a prayer for Ukraine. Director of Marketing Melissa Santisteven said, “it’s important for the residents to have a sense of purpose” and to feel like they can do something to help during this time.
Through a family connection, Executive Director Jane Woloson worked closely with Father John Gribik of St. Mary’s Church who will send the collected funds to the Archbishop of Poland, where over 60% of Ukrainian refugees are currently seeking refuge.
“I know it’s going to a place that it’s really needed,” Woloson said, dressed in a bright blue dress and yellow blazer for the event. In addition to the meals, St. Elizabeth raffled off several bottles of Ukrainian vodka as well as delicately handpainted, wooden Ukrainian easter eggs.
“We shared the meals we got with our 82-year-old nextdoor neighbor whose father was Polish,” one community member wrote to Santisteven, thanking her. “She ate heartily and had a great time sharing stories from her childhood.”
With over $5,000 raised, St. Elizabeth residents and staff were incredibly thankful to those who helped with the fundraiser.
“To bear this in isolation is so hard, but to bear it together helps,” Haroutunian said. With many older residents, he spoke empathetically about the triggering effect the war is having on some who have already lived through a war.
Through the community newsletter, HUNI, and through word of mouth, car after car pulled up in the drizzle and wind to donate, eat, share, and connect to their community members all in the spirit of helping those in need.
With the war still in full force, many organizations are raising funds for refugees. Little Man Ice Cream hosted a “dollar pint night” where 100% of the proceeds were donated to the World Central Kitchen and Project Cure, two humanitarian organizations dedicated to assisting communities in need around
Basha Cohen, director of marketing for Little Man (and occasional contributor to The Denver North Star), said that traditionally dollar pint night is a thank you to the community and that this year’s night was “phenomenal.” With thousands of pints of ice cream sold, Cohen said most people happily donated an additional dollar.
“People feel so good about doing something,” Cohen said, explaining that it was a major moment of giving and that it’s all the minor gestures combined that truly make a difference.
While local efforts continue, people are encouraged to seek out trustworthy organizations to donate to, reach out to one another, and refer to local groups for information regarding what can be done.