Ukrainian families virtually thank OC donors who helped rebuild their homes

Jessica De Nova Image
Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Ukrainian families thank OC donors who helped rebuild their homes
Ukrainian families are rebuilding their homes thanks to donations from Southern Californians to the U.S.-based nonprofit To Ukraine With Love.

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif, (KABC) -- Southern California families gathered recently to meet virtually with Ukrainians in the war-torn nation as they walked through their new homes made possible by donations to the nonprofit To Ukraine With Love.

A new set of keys was a chance to start again for one Ukrainian family after their home was destroyed during the Russian invasion.

The rubble was still visible throughout their village this month.

One woman said she was alive thanks to a mattress landing on top of her, sheltering her from the rubble during an attack. Thanks to the generosity of people in Southern California like Meka Voge, she and her husband had a new home.

"Even though they've been through such a difficult experience and time where they were homeless, they were so appreciative and so happy," Voge said.

That was just one of hundreds of families getting aid from To Ukraine With Love, according to the nonprofit's founder, Svitlana Miller.

Miller said the nonprofit focused on housing and food for people in Ukraine.

The founder said $24,000 covers a studio home and $35,000 a large three-bedroom, ready-to-live-in home.

"We make sure that the donor is personally connected with the people on the ground in Ukraine who receive the aid," Miller said.

Ben and Andrea Holley remembered helping their first family. The new house meant two parents reunited with their six-year-old daughter and family meals.

"She just lit up, was so happy and so excited to be able to cook for her family," Ben Holley said.

"I can't describe how special it feels to be able to reunite that family and get that daughter back with her parents," Andrea Holley added.

With an interpreter on the ground, donors hosted parties like this one in Newport Beach in February, to meet those seeing their homes for the first time. They hoped to inspire friends and family to give. People on both ends were brought to tears.

Mary Alice Hatch with the Marriott Daughters Foundation said she decided to donate after meeting Miller at church.

"It's important as a philanthropist and a family with means like this to show our children the responsibility of having wealth and what they can do with it in a really possible way," Hatch said.

Miller said the nonprofit has helped more than a thousand families total.