BRIGHTON – Volunteers from a pair of organizations – aided by two Brighton residents with Ukraine ties – this week packed 11,000 meals they plan to send to refugees from the war in eastern Europe.
Volunteers from Executive Wealth Management, in conjunction with Ohio-based Lifeline Christian Mission, will send the meals to refugees streaming into Poland and Romania. Brighton husband and wife Nick Deychakiwsky and Oksana Pronych were among those packing meals in an effort they say is personal.
The local effort is an attempt to ease the suffering of people fleeing the Russian invasion of neighboring Ukraine. The United Nations said this week millions of Ukrainians have either fled the nation or have been displaced within the country.
“It’s so moving to see people of goodwill who might not have a connection to Ukraine, but are still willing to give their time and their prayers for the good of our country,” said Deychakiwsky, who is the son of World War II Ukrainian refugees. .
Pronych, who was born in Ukraine, and whose brother-in-law is fighting Russian forces, said the attack is evil.
“My heart is in pain every day,” she said. “Thank you for being so heartful and helping my country. We need to win this war. We don’t want this evil to spread further. “
Although he was born in Cleveland, Deychakiwsky said, 77 years ago in 1945, his grandfather had to flee the Soviets entering western Ukraine. He said his mother and aunt were just two little girls in tow.
“This story of refugees having to leave. It’s amazing that it’s happening again after 77 years,” he said.
Deychakiwsky and Pronych met in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, in the late 1990s, when Deychakiwsky was there for work with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The couple relocated to Brighton in 2003, where they have resided ever since.
Although they no longer live in Ukraine, Deychakiwsky said, the couple visit often. They just made a trip in October to visit members of Pronych’s family who still live there, including her sister, brother-in-law and their niece.
Pronych’s sister and their niece were forced to flee the war like many others. They are traveling with another mother and daughter duo, according to Deychakiwsky. However, Pronych’s brother-in-law has stayed in Ukraine and is serving in the Territorial Defense Forces, the armed forces of Ukraine.
“Everybody is worried about him, although he’s the kind of guy who really knows how to take care of himself,” Deychakiwsky said. “Very fierce on protecting his own, so I know he wouldn’t leave even if he had the chance to.”
Getting to work
This week, Pronych and Deychakiwsky, worked alongside individuals from Lifeline Christian Mission and Executive Wealth Management to pack meals.
“It feels good to be doing something, like actually physical and material. Doing something where you can participate. Call it a Zen-like release of saying, I can do something that way, ”Deychakiwsky said. “It’s fulfilling in a different kind of way.”
Audra Norman, vice president of generosity and philanthropy of Lifeline Christian Mission, connected with Executive Wealth Management through a mutual friend in the company.
Executive Wealth Management employees, and others took a break in their day, suited up with hair nets and gloves and received instructions on how to pack various meals.
One station was set up in an assembly line to fill bags with dry ingredients for oatmeal. While another station focused on a meal of dehydrated vegetables, a yellow powder filled with 21 vitamins and minerals, parboiled pinto beans and rice.
When the bags were filled, a volunteer collected it, weighed it to make sure it fell between 390 and 395 grams, sealed the meal bag, put it in a tray and later packaged it all into a box. One meal is expected to feed six people, while a box includes 216 meals.
Based in Columbus, Ohio, and founded 40 years ago by a couple with the desire to serve underprivileged people, Lifeline Christian Mission supports organizations around the globe, including in nine different countries. In March, they dedicated all of their meal-packing events to supporting Ukrainian refugees.
“This is not a solution to the long term problem. We know this is temporary relief. A lot of the meals we send around the world are for things like natural disaster or a crisis and that’s a lot of what we do,” Norman said. . “This isn’t to take the place of what people can do for themselves. We really, truly believe in the dignity of people and elevating people to be able to do in community for each other.”
Through their partnerships with Feed The Hungry and Love Does, Lifeline Christian Mission sends meals to refugees in Romania and local churches in Poland.
“We are dedicating all of the meal-packing centers to Ukrainian refugees, so we’re totally inspired by you and your country and your people and your president,” Norman said to Pronych and Deychakiwsky. “I think I can speak for everyone when we say that it is just a testimony to all of us of strength and resilience and loyalty and dedication, so we are here to represent and just be the hands and feet to help people and love people. ”
The Importance of Giving Back
Executive Wealth Management, located at 135 W. North St., Ste. 1, provides financial planning, wealth management, tax preparation and legal advice to families, individuals and business owners.
“Our core values are trust, community, compassion. We strongly believe in giving back to the community, especially in the communities that serve us. We give our employees time to serve,” CEO and co-owner Michael Lay said. “We give everyone an allotted number of hours they can use. We encourage them to use all of them. Some don’t, but again that’s why we’re trying to provide the opportunities.”
How You Can Help
According to Deychakiwsky, 3.5 million people have fled violence in Ukraine with another 6.5 million internally displaced.
“Anything that you’re doing and can do to help is just so appreciated,” he said.
One resource he encourages locals to use is the Ukrainian-American Crisis Response Committee of Michigan website.
Additionally, he asks area residents to write to their members of Congress and the White House and ask them to do what they can.
“This truly is so touching and heart-warming. Understandable that we, as Ukrainians, we feel it for our people, but this really is a global struggle right now. It’s a critical moment to try to stop, not just for Ukraine, not just for Europe, but for the world, “he said.
“We’re in the crossroads of history. It depends which way we’ll go and everything will go that direction, ”Pronych added.