DOWNERS GROVE, IL — Christian Worship Center pastor Peter Kucher knew that when his church started sending money to Ukraine to help move refugees to safety from the middle of a war zone, the effort would require more money than the Downers Grove church could likely donate.
But just more than a month after the effort to send funds to his homeland began, Kucher has seen the generosity of his church and the surrounding community make a huge impact. On Tuesday, Kucher reported that, to date, more than $47,000 has been raised and sent directly to Ukraine, where about 17,000 people have been helped by the money sent from Illinois.
In a newsletter to congregants, Kucher wrote that the church has been partnering with carefully chosen and vetted churches and relief organizations that are on the ground in Ukraine and ready to help local residents who are seeking safety.
Since the fundraising effort began at the start of March, the church has wired money on a weekly basis after committing to send 100 percent of money raised in Downers Grove to help the Ukrainian effort. The money has been put to good use in Ukraine to cover the cost of transportation and temporary housing as well as meals to feed those who need it most.
The donations have also helped to purchase two vans, which are running non-stop and are helping refugees reach the Polish border and out of Kyiv.
But Kucher, who grew up about 40 miles outside the city and still has family there, understands the need is still great. He said that in speaking with a representative from one of the organizations the church is working with in Ukraine, Kucher could hear gunfire in the background, evidence that the turmoil is far from over.
Fundraising efforts by a Downers Grove church have helped to move families in Ukraine out of a war zone and to safety. (Photo courtesy of Peter Kucher)
“Stories that emerge from the people who have been evacuated are heartbreaking and defy imagination,” Kucher wrote to his congregants. “Images that we see on the news outlets do not even begin to describe the atrocities these refugees have experienced. Many lost their family members. Most have lost their dwellings. Many women and children have been raped and abused by the Russian army. These refugees are shell-shocked, having seen way more death, devastation and violence than humanity was meant to handle.”
Kucher shared one story of a woman from a Ukrainian church who was able to escape the devastation and walked with her children to a van waiting to take refugees to safety. He said that once the woman was onboard the van, another woman with young children sat down next to her and said, “Ma’am, can I call you Mom? Because both of my parents have been killed.”
Kucher said in the newsletter that the church will continue to raise money and keep wiring funds to Ukraine as long as the war continues. While thousands have been rescued from the war zone thanks to the local church’s generosity, he wrote in the newsletter that there is still much more to be done.
“We celebrate thousands of people evaluated, but our celebration is premature because there are many more who still need help,” he wrote.