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Central Texans to collect donations for Ukraine

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Posted at 4:53 PM, Mar 11, 2022

WACO, Texas — Shepherd's Heart food pantry serves thousands of people who are in need in the Waco area each year. Now they are expanding their mission to help friends in Ukraine.

"They're Christians, we're Christians," Executive Director Robert Gager said. "We've got a lot of people that help us do what we do and we're all making our community better. Let's take that to another level."

The non-profit will start collecting donations and donating 20 percent of their income to friends who own a church in Ukraine.

"We thought we would also put our hat in the ring, so to speak, with a practical way people could know their donations are going to get to the hands and feet on the ground over there and touch people that they haven't met and probably won't meet and make a huge difference in their lives," CFO Howard Johnson said.

Donations will provide the church resources to feed people in need and provide gas for those looking to leave the area. Johnson said they just want to help in any way that they can.

"We know people are hungry," he said. "We know they left their homes, left the security of what they did have. One of the basic needs is for food and shelter, and they're providing that."

Right down the street, Gene Vinnykov, co-owner of Guess Family Restaurants, is also planning donations to Ukraine.

Vinnykov was born there and moved to the United States when he was 11. Now he hopes to help friends and family who are still back home.

"The situation is getting worse and worse by the day," he said. "The fear is growing and the uncertainty is tough. They don't know what will happen and what will happen next and how to kind of move forward."

Vinnykov started a Go Fund Me to raise money for World Central Kitchen, a food bank helping Ukrainians in need. He also plans to send care packages over with food and medicine, and other items that are hard to come by.

"The goal is for me to send out packages on Friday for them to get within a week or two," Vinnykov said. "I'm going to keep doing that for as long as I can. I think the need is going to be great and long. I think once even when the war stops, if it does stop, it's going to take some time for that country to rebuild and I'm going to do whatever I can to help."

The GoFundMe was started Friday morning and within two hours had already collected more than $2,000.