How A Community Came Together To Send Donations To Ukraine

The United Methodist Church in Waretown was a central hub of the fundraising. (Photo courtesy Waretown United Methodist Church)

  WARETOWN – The Township of Ocean’s Municipal Alliance members went off topic a couple of months ago and began discussing the war in Ukraine.

  Mitch Bernstein recalled his initial reaction to seeing photographs of refugees from the war-struck country. It reminded him a little too much of archival footage of scenes from World War II.

  “Everyone said that this would never happen again,” said Bernstein. “All these decades later, to see this happening, made me think that I couldn’t sit back and just watch it happen.”

  At almost age 69, Bernstein considered his options. He admitted he was a little too old to pick up a gun and go to the frontlines to help fight against the invasion. Besides, Bernstein was fairly certain his wife would stop him from going in the first place.

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Pastor Dawn Corlew of Waretown United Methodist Church at a Sunday service. (Photo courtesy Waretown United Methodist Church)

  “I wanted to do something that would allow me to look my eight-year-old granddaughter in the eye, and say we participated in some meaningful way,” Bernstein shared.

  Pastor Dawn Corlew of the Waretown United Methodist Church sits on the Municipal Alliance with Bernstein. She told the group about the fundraising efforts started by a local business.

  Joan Field of Décor Picture Framing in Waretown called Corlew with an idea. Sunflowers are Ukraine’s national flower and Field said she had a lot of sunflower prints for sale.

  “Joan said she wanted to do something for Ukraine,” said Corlew. “She suggested that people could come and get the framed pictures and make a donation. Joan said she would then turn all of the donations over to the church so that they could be passed on.”

  Corlew explained that the United Methodist Church Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has been on the ground in Ukraine and in the countries surrounding the besieged nation. Churches have opened up places for eating and lodging for those who have been displaced as a result of the war.

  “We partnered with Joan, and she did the framing and had a good turnout,” Corlew shared. “Almost $1,000 was donated as a result of that effort.”

  According to Field, a number of people came into the shop to buy the sunflower prints after she announced the fundraising efforts in a Facebook post. Some regular customers also noticed the shop’s display and decided to add sunflowers to their art collection. All of the proceeds are donated to help the people of Ukraine.

  “We are still raising money and people are still coming in to claim the sunflower prints,” said Field. “What’s going on in Ukraine has not just stopped. The need is still there.”

Greenbriar resident Mitch Bernstein spearheaded relief efforts that resulted in nearly $17,000 in donations. (Photo courtesy Mitch Bernstein)

  Bernstein found the initiative to be an encouraging one. He became even more interested when he learned more about UMCOR.

  One of the unique things about UMCOR is that 100 percent of donations actually go to the chosen cause. No money is taken off the top for administrative costs.

  “I researched UMCOR thoroughly,” said Bernstein. “I checked them at charity.org and also through the IRS and found them to be a terrific organization. They had great ratings all the way around.”

  As he was at the Municipal Alliance meeting, Bernstein asked Township Administrator Diane Ambrosio to send out a letter to the community requesting donations to help support Ukrainian refugees. A resident of Greenbriar Oceanaire, Bernstein also asked for assistance close to home.

Décor Picture Framing contributed to fundraising efforts by donating money received from selling sunflower prints. (Photo courtesy Joan Field)

  Bernstein explained that the Greenbriar Men’s Club is a 501(c)3 charity and funds were initially filtered through that organization. The Men’s Club itself donated $1,000, while the Greenbriar Women’s Club issued a check for $500.

  Within a three week period, the fundraising efforts spearheaded by Bernstein resulted in nearly $17,000 in donations.

  “We helped facilitate a means to pass on the donations,” Corlew shared. “Overall, our community was able to raise almost $20,000 for the efforts in Ukraine. By going through, UMCOR, it was on the ground immediately.”