INDIANAPOLIS — As innocent lives continue to be lost in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Hoosiers are helping both here at home and close to the war.
Major Mike McKee, the Emergency Disaster Services Director for the Salvation Army Indiana Division, has been in Romania since late March. McKee is working with refugees as they flee Ukraine.
”We want them to know that they are in a safe place, and there’s people that care about them,” McKee said.
He will be stationed in Bucharest, Romania until early May to help the thousands of people flowing through the city. He said they’re either staying put or heading further into Europe.
”They’re just wonderful people, it breaks our hearts,” McKee said.
He is working with two other Salvation Army volunteers, one from Czech Republic and one from Norway. McKee estimates they have already helped more than 1,500 families in just more than two weeks.
”There is food, new clothing, new shoes, things like that for them,” he said.
As the groups pass through, McKee said he almost never sees any men. Most stayed back for the war.
”Some of them have contact, some of them don’t have contact,” McKee said. “But even the ones who have had contact, they’re scared.”
McKee and his team hand out food vouchers to the families and educate them on the dangers of human trafficking. He said these women and children are prime targets for traffickers.
”Once you go with someone and you relinquish your passport to them, you’re done, they have you,” McKee said.
Back at home, local non-profit Mission to Ukraine is working to help the families they serve in Ukraine. Executive Director Steve Boles said they have had an office in Ukraine for 25 years. Primarily they help mothers in crisis and children with special needs, but since the war they have switched to humanitarian efforts.
”I’m not exaggerating when I say it is literally tons of food and medicine we’re shipping in,” Boles said.
Boles said the donations from people in Indianapolis and beyond have been very helpful.
”Whether its finances or items on the needs list we have, both have been provided very graciously by people here in the Midwest,” Boles said.
As war continues, both Hoosiers know how important their jobs are. McKee said sometimes it is as simple as giving a treat to a family pet.
”That usually not only makes them smile but makes everyone in the line smile,” he said.
If you would like to donate to the Salvation Army efforts in Ukraine and the surrounding countries, you can go to its website or text “UKRAINE” to 52000.
Boles said you can help Mission to Ukraine by checking out its website to see where to donate or what items the organization needs.