SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Volunteers in the Springfield area have formed a nonprofit to help refugees who are fleeing the war in Ukraine. Springfield Refugee Aid is a partnership between Prayer in the Square, Bread of Life Slavic Church and other local Slavic and American churches.

Dmitriy Maftey is with Prayer in the Square. He said the group began holding prayer services when Russia invaded Ukraine earlier in 2022. Those meetings are still being held every Sunday at 4:30 p.m. at Park Central Square in Springfield.

Upon hearing that President Joe Biden would welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees to the United States, Maftey said he knew some families would find their way to Springfield. Those who fled the war and knew people in the states flew to Mexico after facing a housing shortage in Europe.

After weeks of prayer gatherings brought hundreds of people from different backgrounds, Maftey said God called him to act, as he believes humans are God’s hands and feet in the world. He was also moved to act after seeing mothers and babies sleeping on sidewalks in Mexico on the news.

Maftey teamed up with churches in the Springfield area to form Springfield Refugee Aid to help families. Others were picked up by volunteers and brought to Springfield in a bus.

So far, Maftey said more than 30 families who left Ukraine are in Springfield. Some of these families have young children, and one has a baby who is two weeks old.

The United States has given refugees from Ukraine humanitarian parole which authorizes them to enter the country and work. However, the Biden Administration recently changed the process to enter the country.

The refugees who are in Springfield now entered before this new process was in place.

How to help:

There are several ways to help refugees who are in Springfield. One is to make a repeating monetary pledge or a one-time donation. Maftey said that money will be used to help buy necessities for families or to help with rent. Another big expense donations will help with is paying for work permits. Families cannot work without one of these permits or without a temporary Social Security Card.

Maftey said these applications for work authorizations cost $495 per person. Approval for these applications can take 90 days, so during that period, families must rely on family, friends, or community support. Maftey said the goal of local efforts to help refugees from Ukraine is to allow families to get on their feet as soon as possible.

To make a pledge or one-time donation, visit Springfield Refugee Aid’s website.

Another way to help is to donate new socks, undergarments, bedding or hygiene items. Gently used clothes, shoes, small kitchen appliances and toys can be donated as well. Maftey said since Springfield Refugee Aid is run completely by volunteers, the donated items go directly to families. It is best that people only donate new or gently used clothes to make sure nothing needs to be cleaned or thrown out.

Item donations can be taken to the Nixa Christian Church at 400 Northview Road in Nixa. The dropoff hours are Monday through Thursday between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. and between 1:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. There is also a dropbox by the front door.

Donors can also call 585-766-4177 or 503-705-1737 to make arrangements.

Those looking to volunteer or those in need of help can also find resources and places to sign up on their website.