With more than $500,000 already raised, the Town of Palm Beach United Way Ukraine Refugee Fund has received an additional $150,000 in matching grants from three island couples to help refugees fleeing their country in the wake of Russia's invasion.
Jim and Irene Karp, Joe and Susan Plumeri, and John and Jana Scarpa each have donated $50,000 in matching grants for the cause, the United Way announced Tuesday. The donors will match contributions dollar for dollar.
“Each day we watch as new horrors unfold for the Ukrainian people,” Joe and Susan Plumeri said in a statement. “Millions of women, children and elderly are displaced, and numbers continue to rise dramatically. We believe it is our moral duty to help provide assistance to refugees during this rapidly evolving humanitarian crisis.”
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Town of Palm Beach United Way: Ukraine Refugee Fund grants matched in 24 hours; new grants totaling $100K announced
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, with President Vladimir Putin citing as his reason the "de-Nazification" of Ukraine's government. The attack has drawn widespread global condemnation and crippling economic sanctions that have cratered Russia's economy and turned the country into a pariah state.
As of Wednesday, more than 3 million people have fled Ukraine and crossed into neighboring countries in the region including Poland, Hungary, Moldova and others since the invasion began, according to the U.N. refugee agency. The UNHCR estimates that more than 4 million people may flee if the emergency situation continues and that the crisis is projected to internally displace up to 6.7 million Ukrainians.
"As the crisis continues to develop, humanitarian needs are multiplying and spreading by the hour," the agency said.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is just horrific,” said Jim and Irene Karp in their statement. “The bombing of residential buildings, maternity hospitals and other public spaces is barbaric. Our hearts go out to the innocent Ukrainian people who are trapped in this nightmare. We want to do our part to support these brave refugees.”
The Ukraine Refugee Fund launched March 4 in response to the growing humanitarian crisis with an initial donation from Bill and Phyllis Mack, and Jeff and Nicola Marcus. Each couple offered a $50,000 challenge grant that was matched within 24 hours.
That success was followed by two additional $50,000 challenge gifts from Susan and Dom Telesco and the Huckleberry Foundation.
John and Jana Scarpa said in their statement: “Ukrainian refugees have lost homes, businesses, livelihoods, loved ones, and so much more, but they have not lost hope.
“We are optimistic that humanitarian aid from agencies like Town of Palm Beach United Way and others around the world will continue to provide support and uplift the spirits of refugees in need. The Ukrainian people will need assistance for years to come, so every contribution makes a difference.”
The United Way said the fund will be used to supported vetted, nonpartisan organizations on the ground in Ukraine providing direct aid to refugees.
Currently, those organizations are Americares, Global Empowerment Mission, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, United Help Ukraine and World Central Kitchen.
The organizations are providing food, medicine, medical supplies, emergency relief items, hygiene kits, transportation and other aid to refugees fleeing Ukraine, the United Way said, adding that it will continue to identify additional partners on the ground to support the needs of the displaced citizens.
Mary Freitas, chairman of the Town of Palm Beach United Way board of trustees, told the Daily News she was amazed at the level of support "and I think on the neatest thing is about it is that we have had people give us $10 up to $100,000. Everyone is doing whatever they can to be helpful."
Every bit counts, she said, noting that donations are coming from not just from island residents. The fund has received support from residents in Boca Raton to Jupiter, she said.
People are seeing the images of the war daily on TV and their hearts are breaking, Freitas said.
"As a country we’re afraid of doing too much because we don’t want to get into a World War III situation. But on the other hand, we're watching people literally dying in the streets.
"I think that’s why we’re seeing people dipping into their pockets. Even though we're paying more for gas and paying more for this, that and the other, they want to show they care."
Freitas said the Town of Palm Beach United Way's small staff of three is now working seven days a week to manage the fund.
"It’s a blessing that we have so many generous donors. That’s for sure,” Freitas said.
To donate to the Ukraine Refugee Fund visit palmbeachunitedway.org/united-ukraine. Checks also will be accepted. Make checks payable to Town of Palm Beach United Way with Ukrainian Refugees in the memo and mail to 44 Cocoanut Row, Suite M201, Palm Beach, FL 33480.
Donations are tax deductible and 100% will benefit Ukrainian refugees. For more information, call 561-655-1919.
Carol Rose is a journalist at the Palm Beach Daily News, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Daily News: Ukraine Refugee Fund gets 3 new matching grants totaling $150,000