Hope and peace are needed in Ukraine; here’s how locals help, and you too

Last night in the beautiful blue-lit sanctuary of The United Methodist Church in Wilmington, heartwarming songs were separated by moving readings of poetry and prose that emphasized the evening’s theme – Songs of Hope and peace.

The musical performances of the members of Cantabile, under the expert direction of Seth Parshall, brought to light the fears and the reality of the current war in Ukraine.

Our hope for peace must be at the center of our thoughts and prayers for the innocent people of Ukraine, but more needs to be done. We must put an end to the fighting. It’s the only way to start rebuilding.

Thoughts and prayers – empathy – for the thousands of innocent Ukrainians who have been killed, injured and forced to flee their once beautiful and peaceful country are not enough.

I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve been in trouble. Maybe it was nothing major. Unlike the Ukrainians, you might not be afraid of being bombed and killed, but you knew you were in trouble.

When it happened, who did you call?

Most of us only have a small group of family members or close friends that we can trust when the going gets tough. We may not see them often, but when we do, it’s a party. Just knowing that you are going to be with them and enjoy their company brings liberating joy. They are people you can rely on in case of trouble.

A good friend once told me that the five most welcome words you can hear, especially when you’re in trouble, are: “I’m on my way.” We must reassure the Ukrainians who are helping us along the way.

Nine years ago, as mayor of Wilmington, I established a sister city relationship with the town of Merefa, just 15 miles south of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine. Merefa is home to just over 22,000 peaceful people. Their mayor, Veniamin Sitov, welcomed us into their community and treated us like family.

Recently, a small group of Wilmington residents representing the Friends of Wilmington (Quaker) Meeting, Wilmington United Methodist Church, and Faith Lutheran Church of Wilmington came together to establish a pathway for funds to go directly from Wilmington to our sister city of Merefa.

Using the resources of the Meeting of Friends, it is now possible. Checks can be made payable to Wilmington Yearly Meeting (Quakers). On the memo line, write “Merefa”. Mail your contributions to the Wilmington Yearly Meeting Office, Pyle Center, Box 1194, 1870 Quaker Way, Wilmington, OH 45177. These checks will be processed and the funds will be forwarded directly to our friends at Merefa.

It certainly doesn’t rule out other ways to show support for Ukraine. Almost every church has a way to send support to disaster areas. The United Methodist Committee on Relief is the one used by the local Methodist Church. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the American Red Cross will send the donations to Ukraine.

We even have a local volunteer, Cathie Streator, 937-725-2981, who makes colorful Ukrainian flag pins that people can buy and wear proudly to show their support for Ukrainian peace and freedom.

Earlier this morning I tried to contact Mayor Sitov to see what we could do to help them. As I expected, it was impossible to reach by phone. None of the landlines or cell phone connections worked.

On the Merefa website is this sad message from Veniamin: “Dear residents of Merefa! In connection with the military aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine and in order to ensure the defense of the state, the decree of the President of Ukraine announced a general mobilization. Merefa soldiers and volunteers must report to the collection point, located at the Administrative Services Center in Peremohy Square. Please support our boys and help them gather a food supply. You can only bring durable goods. The collection point operates 24 hours a day at the administrative services center in Peremohy Square.

What a sad and awful announcement to post on their city’s website. They need our help.

Of course, keep our Ukrainian sisters and brothers in your thoughts and prayers, but also send them donations that can be used to purchase the supplies they need to regain their freedom.

While help is on the way, we must continue to pray for Hope and Peace.

Randy Riley is a former Wilmington Mayor and former Clinton County Commissioner.

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