More than 1,500 hand-colored messages of hope for Ukrainian children in refugee camps, approximately 2,200 coloring books and nearly 300 boxes of crayons are ready to be packed and shipped from Bucyrus to a refugee camp. Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw, Poland.
Our Children to Your Children, a Bucyrus Salvation Army Ladies Auxiliary project, involved students from every school district in the county.
“We could have just done Bucyrus, but we thought not, let’s go all over the county and get everyone,” said Women’s Auxiliary member Pam Holtshouse. “There was no school system that turned me down; everyone said yes.”
“I think that’s one of the things that excites us,” said Maj. Debbra Grace, who commands Bucyrus’ Salvation Army with her husband, Tom. “It brought some unity at a time when there’s so much divisiveness — politically, COVID, all that. And it’s something that everyone thought was good, and they could rally around it.”
Donations to the project also came from across the county, Holtshouse said. Contributions ranged from a $1,000 donation from the Community Foundation for Crawford County to $4 given to an auxiliary member by a friend she saw at a store.
Ohio Mutual Insurance paid to print the coloring pages and covers – designed by local artist Sandy Laipply. The Bucyrus Kiwanis and Rotary clubs each donated $500.
Children in refugee camps are bored
Originally the plan was to have all the kids in the county color a picture to send in, but someone contacted a refugee camp and was told the kids were bored and needed something. to do, explained Holtshouse. “So we came up with the idea of coloring books.”
They still sent coloring pages to local schools. On the left side of the page is a sunflower – the national flower of Ukraine – with “Be brave” written in English and Ukrainian. The right side was left blank, allowing children to write or draw a personal message.
“And they just did the most valuable things,” Holtshouse said.
“You can see the difference; he’s a 3-year-old from preschool and obviously he’s an older kid,” Grace said, pointing to examples. “Then some of them write messages there…they’re just lovely. Something to do, a message of hope, and that you’re not alone in this, even though you’re out there and we’re finished here, we’re praying for you and worried.
Some of the students sought to write messages in Ukrainian, Holtshouse added.
“We did preschoolers, and it’s just doodles, but it’s so sweet that they got to participate,” she said.
People donated 239 books for the project. The group has ordered an additional 2,000, Holtshouse said. By working with an Ashland book distributor, they were able to get the books for 40 cents each. Pencils are not shipped well, they were told, so they send colored pencils instead. They also hope to be able to order more.
The students also collected other objects
As part of the project, pupils at Wynford Primary School organized a campaign to donate items including socks, shirts and pencils.
“I was in communication with the Salvation Army officers in Warsaw, Poland. They serve thousands and thousands of refugees and one of the things they needed was new socks and new t- shirts,” Grace said. “So the Wynford kids started a collection, and other people brought them in as well.”
Last week, auxiliary members and volunteers — including Crawford County Commissioners and Bucyrus Mayor Jeff Reser — spent a day preparing books to ship. Pages colored by local children were attached to the inside front of each book, and a printed page was attached to the cover.
When they ran out of pages colored by the children, some volunteers colored their own.
It turned out to be more work than they had anticipated, Holtshouse confessed. She had arrived at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, and despite the help, volunteers were just beginning to glue covers to the books by 1 p.m.
“People come and go all day,” she said.
Contributions still accepted
The next hurdle will be shipping the books and other items to a Salvation Army refugee camp in Warsaw.
“The big push is getting donations for the expedition, and we keep taking them,” Holtshouse said.
Contributions may be mailed to Bucyrus Salvation Army, PO Box 552, Bucyrus, Ohio 44820. Write “Children to Children Project” on the memo line.
“Anything that doesn’t go directly to this project will go 100% directly to Ukrainian Salvation Army Relief,” Grace said. “It goes there; it doesn’t even stop here. I just pass it on.”