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South Coast church, dance organization help people putting lives on the line for Ukrainian refugees

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Naomi Vogel
/
World Dance for Humanity
A Ukrainian relief effort in Santa Barbara County has raised more than $90,000.

A campaign has raised close to $100,000 to buy medicine, food for those in combat zones, and to help evacuate people.

We see the images of death, and destruction from Ukraine on a daily basis.

But, for some people who live on the Central and South Coasts, it’s much more painful.

It’s their Ukrainian homeland.

"It's heartbreaking. It's a really difficult time," said Pastor Michael Smiyun, with the First Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Church of Santa Barbara.

"For them, for us too here, because we are watching what happens there." said Smiyun. "We cannot sleep, we cannot eat, we cannot do anything."

The small church in Goleta has taken on a big role in efforts to help the Ukrainian people. The church has teamed up with churches in Ukraine. It's sending money, which is being used to send volunteers into combat zones with food, and medical supplies for civilians. At the same time, when the volunteers leave, they are helping to evacuate people.

Smiyun says what the church volunteers have been doing in Ukraine is dangerous, with some losing their lives.

A more than decade old non-profit dance company has been helping the Goleta church’s relief effort, raising tens of thousands of dollars for the campaign.

Janet Reineck is founder of World Dance For Humanity. She says what the volunteers are doing is amazing. She says it’s not just getting food and medicine to civilians in combat areas, it’s a grass roots effort to get people out of harm’s way.

"They (the church) already had boots on the ground as it were. They had a whole network of volunteers in Ukraine that were already helping people." World Dance is known for raising money for areas in need around the world, with its most recent focus on Rwanda.

Reineck says they’ve raised $50,000, with an anonymous donor kicking in $40,000 in matching funds. She says the goal is to raise an additional $10,000 by the end of this weekend, to bring the overall total for Ukrainian relief efforts to $100,000.

The pastor for the First Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Church of Santa Barbara says members of the congregation are glad to do what they can to help their relatives, and their homeland. Smiyun admits everyone is still in shock.

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Smiyun says one of the most recent requests he received for help is just heart-wrenching. He says the pastor at a church in his Ukrainian hometown asked for N-95 masks. They need the masks because they are digging through the rubble of buildings for bodies, some of which have been buried for weeks.

Information on how you can donate to the World Dance/Ukrainian Church campaign.