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YWCAs Rally To Assist Ukraine Efforts

Nataliya Ulianets, the President of YWCA Ukraine, shows her appreciation via Zoom to the YWCA leaders in New York state for helping raise money to send to Ukraine. The initiative was organized by Westfield YWCA Executive Director Stephanie Stevens.

As part of a statewide initiative, Westfield YWCA Executive Director and President of state YWCAs Stephanie Stevens held a Zoom with Nataliya Ulianets, the president and Founder of the YWCA of Ukraine last month. The call’s purpose was for Stevens to send a challenge to other YWCAs to raise $5,000 each in community so donations can be sent to Ulianets to help benefit the people of Ukraine.

The YWCA in Ukraine was officially founded in 1996, and became an affiliated member in 1999. The need for it first became prominent following the events of Chernobyl in the mid ’90s, when there was minimal information about environmental education. Ulianets said the General Secretary of YWCA of Netherlands invited them to participate in a workshop on environmental education. It’s there that Ulianets said she met many women within the YWCA from different parts of the world and how the YWCA in Ukraine initially spawned.

“In our country after the Soviet Union, we had no government organizations,” Ulianets said. “After that, we had many friends from the YWCA and the World Office proposed we set up the YWCA in Ukraine in 1995.”

Ulianets said the YWCAs around Ukraine are in need of a lot of supplies, but most importantly, they need funding as many residents there have lost their jobs and prices for products have skyrocketed. “We have no fuel in Ukraine,” Ulianets said. “It’s a big problem. We can’t buy it for such money and we are only waiting on what the government will do. It’s a deep crisis. Prices and products like food and medicine rose immediately. In many shops they don’t even put the price and when you go, you don’t know what you can buy.”

And it’s for that reason that Stevens wants to step in. Her friendship began with Ulianets as an olive branch between two YWCA presidents. Stevens said she’d talk to her at 5 a.m. every day to make sure she was OK. In those talks, Stevens realized Ukrainian people are in need of so many supplies, and doing drives to collect specific supplies usually don’t bring a strong turnout.

Stevens is actually extending her challenge beyond just the state. The New York YWCAs have already sent $10,000 to Ulianets, but now Stevens has been in touch with all 200 YWCAs in the United States, keeping that $5,000 goal for each location. If each location does that, it will be a total of $1 million for Ulianets to use.

“People don’t donate to a lot of nonprofits because they think the money goes to the executives or something,” she said. “But this money is not even going to the YWCA USA account. We’ll hold it in our New York account and give it to her directly through a PayPal account. That way she can get what she needs. We’ll send money in chunks as needed, as requested, no questions asked.”

While $5,000 is a drop in the bucket for some of the YWCAs, Stevens knows that for Westfield it shouldn’t be on paper. But because of how spirited the Western New York community always shows to be, the donations have already started coming in for her.

“I’ve already started getting donations in,” said Stevens. “Somebody heard about what I was doing and dropped off $1,000. It’s funny when people ask me how big Westfield and Chautauqua County are, but this is where YWCAs started, in tiny communities. I’ve got banks and organizations calling me asking when we’re starting. We are small, but we are mighty.”

While the fine details of the nationwide challenge are being worked out within the YWCA, Stevens said there’s no time to start donating like right now. She’s still figuring out if she wants to hold an event of some kind in Westfield, but while that is being determined, there are several ways for people to donate.

To donate, checks can be sent to 50 S. Portage St. in Westfield, the same address where money can also be physically dropped off. There is also a PayPal account set up, and Stevens said they could even arrange money to be picked up. The main way to donate would be via the website, https://www.ywcawestfield.org/, where a donation link sits on the homepage.

While there isn’t a deadline for donations, PayPal is not charging any fees on money sent to Ukraine until the end of June, meaning that they’d like to raise as much as possible prior to the end of June.

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