The efforts to help Ukrainian refugees here at home are on full display in the northern suburbs where many Ukrainians already live.
What started out as a vacant storefront in Riverwoods, Illinois has now turned into a donation site so big, refugees who received help are now volunteering at the site to help others escaping war, too.
The donation site is in a strip mall near Deerfield and Milwaukee Ave.
37-year-old Andy Niebur, the owner of a local State Farm insurance agency in the same strip mall has been curious about the empty storefront for years.
With 75% of his customers being Ukrainian, he knew the community was in need. Niebur and his employees, who are also Ukrainian, asked the landlord to turn the vacant space into a store for refugees.
They immediately got the green light.
Last month, Niebur made a Facebook group for the store, asking for donations, and the response was overwhelming.
“It took us about a week to go through all the bags and boxes of everything people brought; set it up in an organized fashion,” said Niebur. “Either people are just eager to do their spring cleaning, or they definitely want to help. I think it’s a combination of both.”
The store officially opened three weeks ago. Since then, Niebur estimates up to 300 Ukrainians have visited the store to collect the needed items as they adjust to their new life in America.
“I thought this was going to be a small project. We might get a couple donations, a couple people might show,” said Niebur. “We’ve been getting 20 to 30 different families per day.”
Refugees like Nina Glavatsky are now volunteering at the donation site, welcoming others who are stepping foot in America for the first time.
She got emotional as she described the situation in Ukraine. Using her daughter-in-law as a translator, she told NBC 5 that her grandchildren are in Spain awaiting a U.S. visa.
She called the war in Ukraine the country’s “biggest tragedy.”
The store is open Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., and is also open Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
For more information on the donation site, visit their Facebook group here.