Toledo Helps Ukraine Founder Attends D.C. Summit

At U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s office, members of the Ohio delegation take a moment before discussing the aid bill for Ukraine with the representative’s staff. PHOTO COURTESY OF ALONA MATCHENKO

BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — Toledo Helps Ukraine founder and president Alona Matchenko has been working tirelessly for more than two years to provide support for her home country. She took those efforts to Washington, D.C., on April 12-16 along with hundreds of other advocates.

Matchenko, who joined the Ukraine Action Summit just days before it gathered, had been invited by Grace Evangelical Church in Grove City to provide extra support and fill in wherever possible, alongside the other 500 summit participants. 

She attended the summit alongside many people, including others in the Ohio coalition. There were 47 states represented at the Ukraine Action Summit, hosted by the American Coalition for Ukraine.

“From the 47 states, it was mostly leaders from NGO (nongovernmental organization) and 501(c)(3) entities that are just like me, doing anything and everything, spending thousands of volunteer hours to advocate and raise awareness and gather aid and supplies to help Ukraine win its freedom,” Matchenko said.

The groups created signs and received basic training in how to organize and meet with their elected representatives and how to explain the effects of the attack to everyone they meet.

“The first two days were educational,” Matchenko explained. “We were trained rigorously in topics from economy to environmental issues, basically explaining how Russia’s attack on Ukraine touches all layers of global existence.”

After participants completed the first two days, they then began meeting with their representatives in the U.S. House and Senate.

The goal of the summit, Matchenko said, was to raise awareness on the matter and encourage legislators to pass a bill, which, in part, would provide aid for Ukraine in the form of military assistance.

The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on Saturday, April 20. The aid package was then passed by the Senate on April 23 and President Joe Biden signed the bill on April 24.

Even just getting the bill to the floor for a vote was a win, Matchenko said, but the work didn’t stop there.

Another advocate at the summit, Katya Pavlevych, easily summed up how Matchenko felt about the aid package’s passage and what the next steps are now that the U.S. has adopted the bill and Ukraine has accepted the aid.

“Now it’s our turn to follow Ukrainian authority, report and oversee that aid gets into the right hands to support our defenders,” Pavlevych said.

Now that the bill has been signed, Matchenko is back in Northwest Ohio to continue working closely with the other volunteers of Toledo Helps Ukraine.

“I am very frugal with administrative fees, and I don’t make any money from this, but it was well worth going and directly speaking to lawmakers and be connected with like-minded individuals,” Matchenko said. “I am glad to be back in Toledo to help here.”

There is no downtime for Matchenko and those who continue to spend time every day raising awareness and gathering support for the mission.

“Toledo Helps Ukraine gets things done,” Matchenko said. “We’ve been doing it for more than two years by now. This year, our slogan is Toledo Helps Ukraine is beyond politics. Human lives are not politics.”

The group is looking to connect with local businesses that might be willing to assist in filling a pallet full of much-needed supplies for Ukrainians.

“If you own a business, reach out to us for collaboration,” Matchenko said. “I will be happy to train your workers in how to be united for one goal and give them a sense of purpose.”

Spring cleaning time is a great opportunity for people to find better use of items they might not need anymore.

Cold-weather apparel, shoes, batteries, tarps and generators can typically all be of use.

“Anything that we have in our garages that we barely pay attention to, Toledo Helps Ukraine is willing and able to ship overseas where it is desperately needed,” Matchenko said.

The focus of Toledo Helps Ukraine has shifted in recent months, Matchenko said, as many Ukrainians who had fled to other parts of the world are returning home, hoping to rebuild and support their towns. They will need all the supplies they can get, she added.

More information about the organization and how to donate money and supplies can be found online at 4ua.org and on the Toledo Helps Ukraine Facebook page.

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