The congregation at Vankleek Hill Baptist Church is getting ready to provide a family from Ukraine with a new home, as thousands of Ukrainians arrive in Canada through various programs, after fleeing the war in their home country.  

Leola Meagher and Rick Sarrazin, both members of Vankleek Hill Baptist Church, wanted to do something to help and proposed using a three-bedroom house the congregation owns in Vankleek Hill as temporary housing for Ukrainians settling in the area and seeking work. The house had formerly been the manse where the pastor lived and was then used for Sunday school rooms and other activities.  

“To make a long story short, they (the church) thought it was a good idea,” Meagher said. 

The congregation formed a committee to oversee the project. The Revive Baptist congregation in Alexandria was already involved with assisting another Ukrainian family and was able to put the Vankleek Hill congregation in contact with a family they could assist.  

The Ukrainian family coming to Vankleek Hill includes two parents, two teenagers, and their grandmother. The teenagers will be attending school locally and learning English. One of the parents has previous work experience as a truck driver in the United States and speaks English. All of the family members will be issued work visas which will be valid for three years, after which they will have the option of applying for Permanent Resident status in Canada.  

“They are not refugees – they will not receive government welfare or housing,” said Meagher. 

“Everybody wants to work.” 

The family is from Odesa, a Ukrainian port city hit particularly hard by the war against Russia. They have been living temporarily in Bucharest, the capital city of Romania. 

“They fled with their cat,” Sarrazin said. 

Due to the family’s current limited capacity to speak and read English, Vankleek Hill Baptist Church would appreciate it if any area residents who speak Ukrainian or Russian could help assist with communication. Potential volunteer translators can contact Leola Meagher at 613-675-2996. 

The family is likely to arrive at their new home in Vankleek Hill near the end of May, or at the beginning of June. They will arrive by airplane in Montreal. Sarrazin has been busy communicating with the family to organize flights. 

Volunteers from the church have been busy cleaning and making minor repairs to the house so it is ready for the family. They are also planning to raise funds for the family on June 4 using all of the proceeds from the church’s yard sale, which will take place at the same time as the town-wide Trash and Treasure yard sale event in Vankleek Hill. The church yard sale will be set up outside the Vankleek Hill Baptist Church at the corner of Main and Bertha streets. 

Alain Giguere, a member of Vankleek Hill Baptist Church, painting inside a house owned by the congregation where a family from Ukraine will soon be living. Photo: James Morgan