By Michelle Poirier
Over $5,000 was raised during the Georgina Post Fundraising Dinner for Ukrainian Refugees at the Sutton Legion Hall on August 28, hosted by Mike Anderson, the community paper’s editor and publisher.
Anderson said half of the money raised would be donated to the Canadian Red Cross to help Ukrainian refugees when they arrive in Canada, and the other half will be donated directly to the four Ukrainian refugee families who attended the event in the form of gift cards for groceries and school supplies.
The event was sold out, with over 120 people in attendance. Money was raised through ticket sales and a silent auction, with more than 50 items donated by local businesses, artists and individuals.
Mayor Margaret Quirk, who attended the fundraiser along with councillors Mike Waddington and Dave Neeson, said it was wonderful to see the community come together for an important cause. She also said it was a great way to keep people involved and aware of what is happening in Ukraine.
“Look at the turnout; I think it shows that people are sympathetic and want to be involved in helping to raise funds,” she said.
“If you talk to anyone about the war, they shake their heads and can’t believe what they see on the news. I think it’s important that it stays in our thoughts and minds.”
Councillor Mike Waddington also said the turnout was great to see and thanked Anderson for putting on the event.
“I think each of us doing our own small part like this, can make a huge difference,” he said.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says since January 1, under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program, Canada has taken in 72,000 refugees, while a total of 194,000 visa applications have been approved.
Anderson, in his remarks, said that Ukrainian refugees are not “technically” refugees and, as such, do not qualify for most refugee programs, including monthly income support.
He said they have been granted temporary visas for three years and are expected to find work to support themselves.
“Each family receives a one-time payment, $3,000 for each adult and $1,500 for each child. That’s it. There is no income support. If they run out of money and can’t find a job, they must go on welfare or go to a food bank,” he said.
“The problem is this war is not ending; everyone thought it would end quickly. It’s a stalemate, and it could go on for years. A lot of people are asking our government to do more.”
Four Ukrainian refugee families attended the event, including three families with young children, two of which are living in Georgina.
Two sisters, Lilia, 16, and Diana, 15, Dobrovolska, from Vinnytsia in west-central Ukraine, who have only been in North York for a few months, sang a mix of Ukrainian and English songs and finished their performance with a moving rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem.
Both girls said they were delighted with the event and that everyone was very kind. They also thanked all those involved with the fundraising dinner and the people helping Ukraine.
Scot Davidson, MP for York-Simcoe, also attended the fundraiser and handed out small Canadian flags to the refugee children.
He shared that he was in Poland a few months ago and saw the crisis unfolding at the border in the early days of the war.
“People were coming out with their lives in a shopping bag. We’re so removed here, and it’s so tough to relate to that, so I’m proud of the community here and proud to see everyone coming out to support it,” he said.
Anderson said many refugees arrive with only the clothes on their backs and face many struggles when they come to Canada.
“Most do not speak English; they have no employment history in Canada, they have no assets, no savings, they don’t have a credit history. Imagine how difficult it is to find accommodation,” he said.
“That’s why it’s very important that small communities like Georgina offer them assistance and support.”
Those who attended the fundraiser enjoyed a traditional Ukrainian meal, starting with Borscht, made by Anderson’s wife Kat and mother-in-law Natasha, with the cabbage donated by Xandra Zalucky from Elmgrove Farm and soup bones donated by Sobeys in Sutton. The soup was served with black bread donated by East West Food Distribution.
Perogies, donated by Grandma’s Perogies, followed the soup, and Chef Todd’s Kitchen made the cabbage rolls. For dessert, guests enjoyed crepes made by a Ukrainian refugee couple, with vanilla ice cream donated by Moolicious Ice Cream in Sutton.
The beautiful table centrepieces were made with sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine, donated by local farmer Joe Pollard.
Anderson ended his remarks by thanking the many volunteers, donors and community members who helped make the fundraising dinner a success and thanked the Legion for donating the hall.
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