Behind the Scenes: Sorting Donations for Ukrainian Refugees with Action News Jax


Originally aired/published on Action News Jax. Click image to watch full segment.


By Stephanie Bennett


Jacksonville, Fla. – Catholic Charities is one step closer to resettling 35 Ukrainian refugees in Jacksonville. Organizers are expecting families in the coming weeks, but they could come as soon as tomorrow.


“It’s a constant running back and forth to make sure we have it all,” volunteer Joan Altes said.


Action News Jax was with Altes as she sorted through donations at Catholic Charities’ warehouse Tuesday.


“I like it when they match,” Altes added as she placed a pile of neatly folded hand towels on a shelf.


“This will be bathroom number one, and bathroom number two,” she said.


So far, more than 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion. According to Catholic Charities, the U.S. can take up to 125,000 refugees in the fiscal year 2022 — that number is separate from the 76,000 Afghan refugees who resettled last year.


In Jacksonville, Catholic Charities can serve up to 150 refugees in addition to those from Afghanistan.


“We’re blessed to have a beautiful amount of donations that have come in over the past year to help with our Afghan crisis to support any of the Afghan families that have come in, but now we’re pivoting to continue to do that, but also are welcoming the Ukrainians that are coming here to resettle,” Senior Director of Development Nicola Barnack said.


She says Catholic Charities needs more donations and volunteers to help set up homes.


The stock in the warehouse may look like a lot, but after resettling just a few families, shelves will be bare.


Items that are still really needed are twin-sized bedding, bath mats and towels, and everyday items like alarm clocks and light bulbs.


To Altes, giving the Ukrainian refugees a home when they get to Jacksonville is invaluable.


“They’re going to live here,” she said. “We want to welcome them and have a beautiful place.”


Barnack says Lutheran Social Services, the other agency in town that resettles refugees, is set to take in close to the same number of refugees as Catholic Charities.


You can drop off donations at Catholic Charities’ — warehouse which is located in a church — on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at 134 E. Church St.


President Joe Biden has talked about welcoming refugees from Ukraine “with open arms”. Immigration policy experts tell CBS News it’s likely the U.S. won’t take in large numbers of Ukrainian refugees in the near future.


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