Old Westbury pastor travels to Romania to help set up shelter for Ukrainian refugees
A pastor from Old Westbury is doing his part to help the people of Ukraine.
Pastor Justin Vetrano traveled back to Romania on his latest mission to aid Ukrainian refugees.
As News 12 reported, Vetrano and his Romanian-born wife Neina spent a week in March at the Ukraine-Romania border as part of a welcoming team. They offered tea, sandwiches and comfort to Ukrainian refugees, many of them mothers and children who were forced to flee from their war-torn homeland. They also helped book transportation and overnight accommodations.
"Once I saw what I saw in Romania with the Ukrainians crossing across the border, I couldn't get it out of my mind. A piece of my heart was always in Romania with these people until they can be settled and have safety," Vetrano said.
With the ongoing Russian invasion, the focus is now helping the refugees start a new life in Romania.
The Old Westbury couple returned to Romania the day after Easter to continue their mission. This time they focused on converting an office building into a refugee center in Constanta. It's called "LIFE for Ukraine" Refugee Center.
"We've been building kitchens, installing showers, making the rooms, you know, turning offices into bedrooms, assembling a lot of IKEA furniture," Vetrano told News 12. "I think it's really important for them to feel safe, to have some sense of normalcy in spite of all that's going on."
The center will house up to 45 refugees. In addition to a roof over their heads, the refugees are getting help with basic necessities, including food, clothing and doctor visits.
Vetrano is also planning to open a school for the Ukrainian children so they can have some sort of normalcy.
"They're just so grateful. You can see it in their eyes, the hugs and the smiles," Vetrano said.
Back on Long Island, there's been an outpouring of support. The LIFE Lutheran Church fundraiser collected more than $250,000 to help the Vetrano's humanitarian efforts in Romania.
"I'm very proud that we have all been able to band together to provide support for these people because they're really, really suffering," Vetrano said. "It's all just part of our way helping people realize that they matter, they matter to people around the world and that there are people who are caring."
The LIFE Lutheran Church fundraiser for Ukraine is ongoing. If you would like to donate, follow this link.