Chicagoland organizations and communities work to help Ukraine

Allison Ollie, Staff Writer

In the midst of the war in Ukraine, social media has been flooded with moving images and videos taken and uploaded by those affected by Russia’s invasion. The wreckage of a maternity hospital that was destroyed by Russian bombs, families carrying children and pets as internally displaced people, and TikToks posted from bomb shelters have been viewed, liked, and shared across American feeds. #LoveToUkraine has hundreds of thousands of posts across platforms. Many Americans began searching for ways to assist from across the Atlantic.
Typical aid organizations such as the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) have members on the ground in Ukraine distributing first aid, food, blankets, and more. According to Médecins Sans Frontières, “Uzhhorod is a city two kilometers away from Slovakia, and has become a hub for the distribution of humanitarian aid to the rest of the country. It is a relatively safe place for now.” Even these organizations, however, are in desperate need of supplies and monetary support to provide for the growing numbers of internally displaced people.
That is where many local organizations have stepped up to support efforts in Ukraine. Most groups are focused on fundraising which can be sent to larger organizations or used to purchase specific goods. Fund-raising campaigns are being held by established foundations, communities, and even some families.
Beyond those who typically provide aid such as healthcare and humanitarian organizations, Chicagoland businesses are raising funds as well. Over a dozen restaurants in Chicago are offering specials and events that will collect money for relief efforts.
The Kane County Cougars are joining the extensive list of supporters. In a statement released on the Cougars’ website, the team announced that all proceeds from the annual 50/50 raffle will be donated to the Ukrainian World Congress, a non-profit organization that supports the Ukrainian diaspora, and Ukrainian culture in general.
The owner of the Cougars, Dr. Bob Froehlich said, “The Kane County Cougars Foundation always supports local charities first. However, the events in the world today have caused us to broaden our horizons globally to help humankind. We stand with Ukraine.”
One unique aspect of social media and the internet is the ability for widespread fundraisers to be created by sole individuals or families. Thousands of dollars have been raised by online donations to these individuals, however, it’s important to check credibility.
As reported in the Chicago Tribune, Leonard Mogul, founder of Arts4Kids Foundation said that “Smaller campaigns, like those organized on social media, can be positive resources, but potential donors should make an effort to ensure those smaller fundraisers are legitimate.”
Arts4Kids is a local children’s foundation also collecting donations for Ukrainian citizens. The foundation is collecting diapers, clothing, women’s hygienic products, and more which will be distributed among women and children in Uzhhorod, Ukraine. As an organization dedicated to supporting the children of Chicago, Arts4Kids is also dedicating their resources to primarily support the children of Ukraine.
Children themselves are also working to support Ukraine as exemplified by D303’s own Ferson Creek Elementary. Students participated in activities that were dedicated to learning and honoring Ukraine like creating a mural and sunflower crafts.
The sunflower, Ukraine’s national flower, has been used as a symbol in many fundraisers. Ferson Creek Elementary continued this trend with the current fundraiser being held by the school in collaboration with its PTO. Sunflower seed packets are being sold in which “100% of the proceeds are being donated to Global Empowerment Mission Ukraine and World Central Kitchen Ukraine” as stated in a facebook post by CUSD303.
Communities have been advocating for Ukraine through other methods as well. As Ukraine-related organizations prepare for potential Ukrainian refugees, Chicagoans are searching for ways to potentially help during the resettlement process. Ukrainian citizens have faced immense trauma in the past weeks that will continue to severely impact them. Should Ukrainian refugees arrive in Chicago, one mental health professional said to the Chicago Tribune, “What’s important is to listen. Hear their story, and their narrative of what happened.”
“Validate their story,” she said. “It’s so basic, and it is so important.”