A group of volunteers helping Ukrainians settle in Nova Scotia can expand their work with a 3,000 square foot donated space.
The group has been collecting donations for months and is now opening ‘The Ukrainian Store’ in the Bayers Road area of Halifax’s West End.
Rick Langille announced the new online store last week.
“The reaction was fantastic. We immediately had nearly 300 likes. We had many responses, ‘How can I help? How can I donate? Do you need me to come and clean up?’ “
Langille said the group hopes to open the store by next week, so Ukrainian refugees arriving in the province can pick up everything they need, from furniture to clothes to toys. He said the group had helped more than 40 families so far.
Langille, of East Hants, Nova Scotia, started collecting furniture and household items for Ukrainians three months ago. He connected with hundreds of people through the Atlantic Canadian Hosts for Ukrainians Facebook group, and soon had a group of dedicated volunteers working with him, and five storage units full of items.
But the group faced a major roadblock. In May, Langille was informed that the group would no longer be allowed to hold its weekly gatherings for Ukrainian families coming to pick up goods.
He said the storage company, Metro Self Storage, told him it was an insurance issue.
“We were then reminded that … if this continued, we would lose our access to the facility and all donated items,” Langille said. “So accordingly, we have been feverishly looking for another place where we can continue our efforts.”
After searching for a new location and having had no luck, Langille told the group and its donors that he would have to suspend operations at the end of June if they could not find a home base.
This prompted Tantallon’s attorney, Dianna Rievaj, to take action. She had already contributed to the group’s efforts and knew how important it was that their work continued.
“I think it’s easy for a lot of us to step into their shoes and say, ‘My God, if I pick up the phone and have to land in another country where I don’t speak the language and I maybe leave my husband behind, i will. i hope someone will help me too.”
So Rievaj emailed local MPs and councillors.
“I basically just explained the situation,” she said. “I told them, you know, we’re not looking for money. We’re looking for your connections to help us find who we can get in touch with for a suitable basis.”
Rievaj said she quickly heard from the office of Ben Jessome, MP for Hammonds Plains-Lucasville, as well as the office of Danielle Barkhouse, MP for Chester-St. of Margaret. They both suggested the same place and put her in touch with the owner.
The space is owned by a local property management company and is offered free of charge. All the band has to pay for is insurance.
Langille said people from all over have joined the group, including many people from Ukraine who want to give back.
Anna Vasiutkina is one of them. She fled Kyiv, Ukraine with her partner and arrived in Nova Scotia two months ago with a suitcase full of clothes.
Like many Ukrainian refugees, they stayed with a host family in Nova Scotia to put their feet on the ground, but after finding an apartment, they had to furnish it from scratch.
“It’s been a big help for me…to look through things and get something for free because it’s really, really expensive to buy all the furniture at once,” she said. declared. “And now we want to volunteer to help her.”
Langille said that although support has been overwhelming so far, the group still needs more volunteers. He said that since many Ukrainian families do not have a vehicle, it is crucial to have volunteers to help transport furniture and large items.
The store will be open by appointment, and Langille said anyone interested in volunteering, donating or “shopping” can contact him on Facebook through the Atlantic Canadian Hosts for Ukrainians group.