Benefit Dinner In Russell To Support Ongoing Efforts In Ukraine

Piper VanOrd of Warren shares some treats with youngsters during a recent humanitarian trip to Ukraine. Wiltsie Community Church is holding a benefit dinner from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, that will support VanOrd and two other humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. Submitted photos

RUSSELL, Pa. — The war in Ukraine has entered its 10th month.

During those months, the population of Ukraine has suffered as family members have been killed or gone off to fight, homes have been destroyed, and attacks on infrastructure have taken away heat and electricity.

The war started in February and there is no end in sight.

Wiltsie Community Church is Russell is hoping to provide some light.

“These people have no electricity, they have no heat, and they’re going into the same winter we’re going into, maybe worse,” Missions Committee member Chris Frankson said. “They have nothing.”

A benefit dinner including potato bar and ice cream bar, and maybe some borscht for a Ukrainian flavor, will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at the church at 2981 Swede Hill Road. Tickets are $5 with donation.

Take-outs will be available, but those who dine in the church will see a program of photographs from Ukraine that show why the work is needed and what kinds of help their dollars will support. There will also be auctions during the dinner to help raise additional funds.

Frankson said funds raised at the dinner will help the efforts of three different individuals and groups.

“Piper VanOrd is from right around the church’s corner here in Pennsylvania,” Jennifer Lundmark said. “Piper previously had no connection to Ukraine, yet last winter felt the calling to go out and help where ever she could — thinking that would be a one-time gig.”

“Little did she know that after the first trip, she would then go out again two more times this year, having just returned from her third trip just a few weeks ago,” Lundmark said. “Piper has been working with a group of ladies from Poland as well as a couple of other connections here in the states through URI – Ukrainian Relief Initiative – to provide basic body care items (toilet paper, soap etc.), food, mats for sleeping, heaters and medical supplies. ”

“Piper has been a little ball of energy,” Frankson said. “She’s been over in Ukraine several times… twice she’s taken her children.”

“She has just done what they need,” Frankson said. “Running supplies… buying things to fill the supply stores. She has just been amazing.”

Dollars raised at the church will not help VanOrd get back to Ukraine — “She’s funding herself,” Frankson said — but will be available to her to purchase whatever it is that is needed on her next trip.

“It will go to her cause over there,” Frankson said.


“Juris Bekeris Brivkalns and his wife, Kristine, were born and still live in Latvia,” Jennifer Lundmark said. “Our connection came with this couple from Erica Damcott, a missionary to Latvia Wiltsie had been supporting for almost a decade.”

“Juris and Kristine currently serve in Liepaja, Latvia, through Youth With a Mission,” Lundmark said. “Juris traveled to Ukraine this past summer to help build houses in preparation for Winter, for those whose homes were destroyed.”

“Now, they are working in their home city to encourage the community to come together to make candles for the Ukrainian military for warmth because many places in the country are now without electricity,” she said.

“He’s working with the government to make four-inch candles which provide some heat and light,” Frankson said. “They’ve just made 1,000, which the government funded. They would like to make 1,000 more.”


The war is particularly difficult on young mothers and their babies.

“Nadia Gordynsky and Lida Kozluk were both raised in Ukraine, but now live here in the states,” Lundmark said. “Lida was a friend that Walt and Ann Venman knew from their days back in Lancaster, who now attend and serve at Wiltsie.”

“Nadia and Lida are working to create ‘Baby Boxes’ which will be used to bless women and children who are struggling in Ukraine – perhaps victims of rape or suddenly without their husbands due to the war, through an organization called ‘Save a Life,'” she said.

“Many women have nothing to care for those children,” Frankson said. “The money would go to making these baby boxes. Each box is $300 – it’s stuffed with stuff for babies.”


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