Ocala church helps Ukrainian refugees find asylum
OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) — It’s Sunday, March 27, and Father. Jonathan French stands at the altar of Grace Episcopal Church in Ocala. The rector wears a purple sash for Lent. He gives weekly announcements to his congregation.
“I love our prayers to people, we pray for people in all kinds of places and issues,” he said during the service. ” And like [me] I’m sure you prayed for the people in Ukraine.
He explained that his son, Micah French, serves in the military, stationed at Aviano Air Base in northern Italy. Micah’s wife, Victoria, is also there, living with him.
“They started seeing Ukrainian refugees…come to this area,” the father said. said French. He appealed to the parishioners of Ocala for financial assistance. “I’m going to collect those funds and I’m going to ship them directly to this church,” he said, referring to his son and daughter-in-law’s church in Italy.
TV20 followed up with Fr. French 12 days after making the call, the community showed their support.
A three-phase plan
Jonathan French has six children. He said he and his wife followed each and their spouses via group text messages. He said it all started when Micah sent a photo in the group chat of him and Victoria sleeping in their church with Ukrainian refugees.
“From there, I knew the folks at Grace would want to help out in some way,” the father said. said French.
Victoria explained that members of their church in Italy had developed a three-phase plan to help the refugees. The first phase was to send supplies (diapers, baby food, clothes, blankets, food, she reads rapid fire) directly to the front lines or where camps had been set up.
Two weeks later, Victoria said, the second phase began, which was to “receive and house”. At first she said they accommodated 25 people. The Sunday school classrooms around the Sanctuary have been turned into dormitories.
“Once the people in the refugee camp in Romania were prepared, we sent six vans to Romania to collect people to come back here,” she said.
The first wave of refugees stayed for about two weeks, Victoria said, before being placed in more permanent accommodation. Now they are preparing for the next group of people.
“A bus is being brought back to Romania to accommodate 50 people,” Victoria said.
The third phase is semi-permanent placement, which means helping them “find jobs, find apartments and real-life situations.” All of this happened in the space of just one month.
“When we found out that Russia had attacked, we couldn’t believe it. It was just the worst case scenario, and immediately the whole community sprang into action,” Victoria said. “That’s our goal.”
A congregation answers the call
Micah grew up in Grace [Episcoal Church], like all his children, Fr. says French. Church members prayed for Micah ahead of his deployment to Italy, where he has been for four years.
“I made an announcement at the church,” the father said. French. “I said my son and his wife are there, they’ve received refugees and so if you’ve been looking to partner or help refugees in a very direct way, we now have a direct route to take care of the refugees right now today.”
In just four days, they raised $10,000, and they’re now down to just under $13,000. The first donation of $7,700 ensured that the Italian church would be able to support this effort throughout April. Relief tab for Ukraine added to church website because interest grew so much, Fr. French, and not even 10 hours later after the new feature was added to the website, an anonymous donor gave $500.
“Thank you all for your attention. Thank you for wanting to help,” Victoria said. “Just wanting to see these people through this really difficult situation. It really is kind of a surreal experience to be in this place at this time. precise doing that specific thing.
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