We write these words on the feast day of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, one of the most revered saints of our Ukrainian Churches. The life of St. Nicholas was the subject of a Facebook post on December 19 – the saint’s feast day according to the Julian calendar – by the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which exhorted us to follow this saint’s example of love, kindness, compassion and charitable works. And then we thought about those in our midst whose good works are worthy of, not only praise, but support and emulation.
Our December 8 issue carried a story headlined “Whippany youths support children in Ukraine” about the wonderful work of the local chapter of the Ukrainian American Youth Association in brightening the lives of youngsters in faraway Ukraine. It was all part of a global endeavor by the Ukrainian Youth Association (SUM) dubbed “Warm the Heart of a Child,” whereby members fill backpacks with winter clothing, school supplies, toys and handwritten greetings. As reported in the story by Chrystina A. Dolyniuk, the UAYA chapter’s members, assisted by their families and others in the Whippany community, succeeded in preparing 102 such backpacks to be sent to children in the Kalush, Ternopil, Kyiv and Khmelnytsky areas. In fact, the idea was to send these backpacks to the children in time for the feast day of the beloved St. Nicholas. In the past five years, this chapter of the UAYA has shipped more than 600 such backpacks to Ukraine.
In this week’s issue, we read about another praiseworthy initiative undertaken in our neighborhood. The Charitable Program at St. John’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Newark, N.J., has focused for the past 10 years on the needy in Ukraine. Its latest project, called “Feed the Hungry,” collected $38,850 in donations, which provided for the purchase of some 2,500 large bags of food that were distributed throughout Ukraine. The St. John’s volunteers were able to do this because of a network of trusted volunteers in our ancestral homeland. Ksenia Hapij, director of the Charitable Program, noted: “The longer the list of recipients, the greater the need for volunteers who would prepare the bags of food. Someone had to purchase the products. Someone had to deliver them to a place where someone would sort everything and pack it into bags, and only then was someone able to deliver this. It was both heart-warming and encouraging to see how many people volunteered their time to help.” The Charitable Program continues its big-hearted work, and is always in need of assistance.
Also in our neck of the woods, the Bethlehem Peace Light was shared with the community by Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization, which participates in this unique program of scouts worldwide that aims to spread a message of love, good will and hope. The Peace Light is brought to the U.S. by Austrian Airlines, arriving at JFK International Airport; from there, it travels across the country. In Ukraine, the Peace Light arrives from Vienna, where a special ceremony is held with the participation of scout organizations from across Europe. As reported on this week’s front page, the representative of Plast brought the Peace Light to Kyiv, whence it journeys to all parts of Ukraine, including the war-torn east. Since 2014, Plast scouts have made the trip to the frontlines to share the symbolic light of Bethlehem with Ukraine’s soldiers in an effort to lift their spirits and reinforce the hope for peace. “We are duty-bound to continue this tradition every year, and each time we hope it will be our last trip… But the war is on, so we have to go,” Oleh Vdoviak told our correspondent.
All of the above – along with countless charitable endeavors in your local communities – are especially deserving of our attention at this time of the year as we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child.