CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ)– Local professionals are partaking in a new effort to help Ukrainian refugees relocate to the Centre County region.

The effort is being called the Centre Coalition for Ukraine and it is a collaboration between business, education, medical and mental health professionals, with a California based non-profit group called Ukraine Now. The goal is to help find the Ukrainian refugees that are in need of housing, food, medical care and mental health resources.

Ukraine Now has case managers that will identify the refugees now living in shelters in the US to relocate to the Centre Region once housing and critical services are secured.

Centre Coalition for Ukraine chairperson Erin Crown has been deeply concerned about the refugee crisis since it began.

“What has happened in Ukraine is devastating,” she said. “It will be important for those involved to understand that Ukrainians have been traumatized. We will need to address their needs with that in mind.”

She did say that she is confident that the Ukrainian refugees coming to Centre County will be met with compassion.

“I’m honored to be part of this effort and am confident that the individuals and families coming to Centre County will be met with compassion and support. I am thankful that we live in a community that not only has resources to share, but an openness to do so.”

Crown said the initial batch of housing for refugees in the area was made possible by the George Woskob family. It is intended to be a temporary arrangement.

“We’re ready to accept up to 10 people at this point. That may be one family, three families, whatever the family size is,” Crown said. “The intent of these individuals and of this organization is not that these Ukrainian refugees will live in Centre County forever. We’re looking at probably two years’ time of assistance.”

Students from the Penn State Ukrainian Society are also partaking in the coalition to help provide cultural resources. Ukrainian Society President Maria Smereka-Hladio’s family emigrated from Ukraine in 2000 and she feels connected to the plights of the refugees.

“Sadly, as time has passed, the tragedy of war in Ukraine has faded out of perception as people focus on the normalcy of their day-to-day lives. Ukrainians do not have that luxury. Innocent people are still being targeted by the Russian military and millions have been displaced from their homes. Those who have managed to escape are desperately seeking safe haven for themselves and for their families.”

Leaders of the new Centre Coalition for Ukraine include Jamison Malcolm, (The Nittany Church), Erin Crown (Oasis Life Care and President, Pennsylvania Mental Health Initiative), Greg Somers (Happy Valley Brewing Co), Philip Burlingame (Penn State, retired) and Henry Cramer, MD. The organizers are seeking monetary donations and housing options for individuals and families. In order to make a donation, visit the non-profit Pennsylvania Mental Health Initiative’s website.

“It’s everything that you would need to live here, and not just survive but thrive,” Smereka-Hladio said. “But here, we really hope to provide a safe space and all of the resources that these refugees need.”

Anyone interested in providing resources for refugees coming to the area through the coalition can email coalition4ukraine@gmail.com.

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Ukraine Now was created by Artur Kiulian, a Ukrainian immigrant to the United States who is working with the US Department of Health and Human Services and the State Department to assist Ukrainian refugees in obtaining US travel visa applications and access to government services.