Rotary Club of Sebastopol donates nearly $30,000 to help support Ukraine

By Katherine Minkiewicz-Martine, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, March 31, 2022

In early March, the Rotary Club of Sebastopol voted to donate $10,000 to the Rotary International Disaster Response Fund for Ukraine. Since then, the service club has raised an additional $19,000 for a total donation of $29,000 — and the donation amount keeps growing.

“It’s used for many purposes,” Rotary Club of Sebastopol President Ellen Harrington said of the fund. “The one that’s nearest and dearest to our hearts in this community is all of the fires and floods. Our club is part of what is called district 5130 so people within our district would contribute. Our district goes from Petaluma all the way to the Oregon border and over to Napa.”

According to the Rotary website, contributions to the disaster response fund that are received by April 30, 2022, will qualify for use in support of Ukrainian relief efforts.

“Thousands of refugees are pouring across borders, usually women and children. Rotary International has formed a fund to assist. Money is being sent to Rotarians in countries that border Ukraine and they are providing necessities to those who fled, often with nothing,” Rotary Club of Sebastopol Treasurer Ken Jacobs wrote in a statement.

Rotary districts nearby can apply for expedited disaster response grants to provide relief to refugees including items such as water, food, shelter, medicine and clothing, according to the Rotary website.

“The reason we had this $10,000 is two-fold. We raised a lot of money at our fundraiser last year and we had enough to make this another program for our club, which is great. Additionally, I’ve been able to get a lot of sponsorships this year, so between those two efforts we were able to have additional funds to go to this cause which is wonderful,” Harrington said.

The $10,000 was part of unspent money leftover from the club’s Derby Day fundraiser, according to Jacobs. The same day the club voted to donate the $10,000, club members passed around a hat and raised another $2,4000 on the spot.

According to Harrington the funds keep growing as people in the club tell others about the fund in order to get more donations.

“The donation from the Sebastopol Rotary Club is unbelievably generous. It really speaks to the heart of our community,” said Sebastopol Mayor Patrick Slayter.

Jacobs emphasized that you don’t have to be a Rotarian to use the disaster fund website and to donate.

“The needs are immediate and the website is the fastest way to get help where it is needed,” Jacobs said in the statement.

The Ukrainian-Russian war has caught the attention of many around the world, but for the city of Sebastopol — who’s sister city is Chyhyryn, Ukraine — it’s a conflict that hits close to home.

On March 1, the city took an official action in support of Ukraine with a proclamation that was approved unanimously by the Sebastopol City Council. The proclamation affirms the city’s support for Chyhyryn and the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

In part, the proclamation states, “Whereas, the City of Sebastopol has been sister cities with the City of Chyhyryn Ukraine since 1993; and, whereas the Cities of Sebastopol and Chyhyryn have developed deep and meaningful bonds of friendship through cultural exchanges of people of all ages; Sebastopol and Chyhyryn residents staying in each other’s homes and sharing each other’s lives; and, whereas American-Ukranian relations have long served as an example and a foundation for security, freedom, the development of democracy and human rights in Eastern Europe and across the globe; and, whereas, Ukraine, and the Ukrainian people represent a distinct culture with a long, proud history; and, whereas, self-determination is the inalienable right of all people around the world including the Ukrainian people; and, whereas, a free and independent Ukraine is of vital importance to protecting the Ukrainian people.”

Slayter said the city’s sister city organization Sebastopol World Friends (SWF) has also worked on several projects in an effort to support the sister city and Ukraine. Sebastopol World Friends continues to provide Ukrainian flags for people to display in their homes and businesses and with the help of the Sebastopol Public Works Department, has installed the flag at each of the city’s main entrances near the “welcome to Sebastopol” signs.

“Most importantly, through the longstanding efforts in citizen diplomacy and the relationships, friendships and family-like ties, have been able to help facilitate the evacuation of several Ukrainian families to safe locations in Eastern Europe, welcomed by caring people who are all part of the greater SWF family,” Slayter said.

Slayter said a member of the SWF board is flying to Poland with eight suitcases of clothes and medical supplies for refugees. He said the gesture isn’t an official SWF trip, rather a private one by a caring and able individual.

To donate to the Rotary International Disaster Response Fund, click here.

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