Parry Sound has officially welcomed its eighth Ukrainian family to the community.
Through a grassroots initiative that kicked off in late March, the local Rotary Club has been assisting to ease the transition for families coming from Ukraine as a result of the Russian invasion. Linda West, President of Rotary Club of Parry Sound, says the new arrivals are a family of four, Mom, Dad, a four-year-old, and a one-year-old.
West says the family is now living with another family of four, who had a very large house. “So the two four-year-olds and the two one-year-olds have playmates,” she says. According to West, there are also about four or five more families on the way, however, the lack of housing is starting to limit the club’s options.
In late April, the Club made a public appeal to members of the Parry Sound community to help with housing matters for incoming Ukrainian families fleeing the war. As a result, West says Parry Sounders have been extremely generous, adding the club has all the furniture they can store at this time.
“We are still taking some household items and we’ve found out that the bikes are very welcome because most of [the arrivals] do not drive or don’t have a car. They may have been driving in Ukraine but they don’t have a car yet and bicycles give them their freedom,” she says.
However, West says the focus moving forward will be getting more housing. “I think we understood that was going to be a problem and a lot of people have opened their homes and we’re very appreciative of that. There are a few apartments we’ve been able to access but housing is tight,” she says. West says she doesn’t see that problem going away, adding the club knew this would happen when they began the initiative.
The Rotary Club is now also looking to match the people that are coming into Parry Sound with families, employers, or mentors that can help them get all their paperwork done. “We usually also try and match these families with a person or family just there for friendship. To take them to the beach or grocery shopping,” she says. The point, she says, is to make sure there is some support from three or four groups of people built into every incoming family.
West says the club is looking for volunteers willing to help out in these support systems. She says the club trains the mentors to be able to help with any legal paperwork and related matters.
As for housing, West says the club is looking for anyone who may even simply have some free space. “We have been able to go into a couple of homes and help them [renovate]. [Sometimes] to put up drywall, fix the plumbing and stuff like that which Habitat for Humanity has helped us with,” West says.
The Rotary Club is also taking donations if someone wants to help out but does not have the time or space. West says the money goes for things like purchasing food when families first arrive, materials for any housing renovations as well as car seats and cribs for children.
If you are interested in donating, signing up as support, or learning more on how to help, you can visit the Rotary Club’s website at portal.clubrunner.ca/217/