Certain foods remind us of home—a place and a time in life—food that is shared around a table with people we love. For the families who fled the war in Ukraine and now stand in line at our pantry, they long for bowls of borscht, varenyky (dumplings), kasha and semolina for making breakfast porridge. And to some refugees, Rivertown gardens, bursting with tomatoes, are another reminder of the land they left, the gardens they once nurtured.
“The pantry has always been open to helping refugee groups and families. We currently are helping six to eight Ukrainian families a week who now live in our area,” says Robin Larkins, a pantry volunteer and executive director of SPRING Community Partners, a Dobbs Ferry nonprofit that works with the pantry and also provides funding or sponsors for families with school-age children in need.
It is a Wednesday morning in July. And while pantry volunteers hurry to set up tables of fresh fruits and vegetables, pack meat and fish in ice and check the freshness of hundreds of loaves of bread, a new client joins the line. She and her family fled Mariupol, a port city under Russian occupation since mid-May. “There’s no electricity, no water in some parts of Mariupol,” H. says. “We bought a house in December, a small house, but it was ours. Now the house is gone.”
So as the war raged, she prayed for guidance, a way out, and when the U.S. moved to accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, H. posted on social media that her family had lost everything and they were looking for a sponsor.
Rivertowns for Refugees stepped up. “We heard about this family in May and actually had a Zoom call with them in early June. We agreed to support them then,” says Sue Smith, secretary and treasurer of the nonprofit. The group had to agree to be a sponsor and financially support the family for 24 months, the duration of their visa as humanitarian parolees, a process that was much faster than the refugee admissions process, says Smith. By July 7, the family was here. As they settle in, the parents are eager to find work and become independent. For now, the family gathers around a table in a new land, and begins again.
Volunteers run the pantry and make it all happen. This crew prepared SOS (School’s Out Supplement) bags for our young clients. Thanks to Jeff Glueck, Nolan Fader, Michelle Peluso, Amy Ziff and Auden Fader for pitching in. Again.
Items Most Needed: personal hygiene products, household cleaning supplies, low-sugar cereals and oatmeal.
This month’s newsletter written by the pantry’s “Breakfast Lady” who clearly made her money as a writer, Kimberly Janeway.