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In the News: Assisted living residents hold fundraiser to help Ukraine

Ukraine Fundraiser

Princeton, NJ/ NJ.com — In her role as “Escapades producer” at Princeton Brandywine Living, Stephanie Gaber routinely cooks up ideas to keep her seniors in the assisted living facility engaged.

Her latest escapade was all of that, but there’s also a very serious and extremely personal aspect.

“My family is from Ukraine,” said Gaber somberly during a benefit fundraiser for an organization called Hope For Ukraine held Wednesday. Her grandparents, parents and two sisters were born in the eastern European country currently under attack by Russia.

She has cousins who still live in Ukraine.

“It is my heritage. I really felt the need to do something,” she said. When she spoke with residents, many were deeply affected, especially those from Ukraine and nearby countries. They put the idea together to do a fundraiser.

Assisted by staff, residents made oil paintings and t-shirts featuring the Ukrainian flag, and potted Hyacinths into decorative containers. And Gaber spent several nights at home cooking up trays of pierogis, stuffed cabbage and baking Ukrainian apple bread and honey bread.

Gaber said she hoped the event would raise somewhere in the area of a thousand dollars, but at the end of the day, $2,643.20 had been collected which Boyechko said “will go directly to buy food for the Ukrainian refugees.”

The organization that will handle the proceeds is called Hope For Ukraine, based in Roseland, which was founded in 2016 as an avenue to help children with HIV and AIDS.

“That was our original mission,” said President and founder Yiriy Boyechko, who was on hand at the event. “When the war broke out on February 24, we have focused solely on the problem at hand, which is helping refugees and fixing the food crisis right now in Ukraine.

“A lot of places in Ukraine people have run out of food,” he said. “We’ve been working around the clock for 35 days.”

Boyechko said that once, even twice a week, Hope For Ukraine sends out food shipments of 21+ tons to Poland for distribution to Ukraine.

They also house up to 150 refugees who live full time in their center in Lviv, while helping them find permanent housing once they cross over into Poland.

“So that’s been our mission and our purpose for the last 35 days and that’s what we’re going to keep on doing,” Boyechko said. “To try to help as many people as we can to go through this big tragedy that came to their home and bring some kind of closure to their lives.’

Looking back over the fundraiser, although still subdued in her emotions, Gaber said “It turned out to be a great day. I’m really happy.”

She said she hopes the war will end soon saying “35 days is 35 days too many. The Ukrainian people, they don’t want to fight.” she said. “Nobody should have to fight for their freedom. Nobody.”