DECATUR — When Lexi Jones heard about the war in Ukraine, she wanted to help and didn’t know how.
She found a Facebook page, North America for Ukraine, dedicated to the organization of aid to refugees. Subscribers send e-mails to lawmakers asking for help to be sent and to find and offer help with things like where to stay and getting visas.
Through this page, she got in touch with a Ukrainian woman named Oksana.
“I just kind of took her under my wing,” said Lexi, a senior at Meridian High School. “But I needed the money because she needed a place to stay, she has three dependent children and they just needed help with pretty much everything.”
To raise funds for Oksana and her family, Lexi, her twin sister Laney and her friends Maria Steiling and Ellie Fitzpatrick bake bread and cookies and sell them.
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“I feel responsible for her now,” Lexi said of Oksana. “It’s a personal connection. We have gotten to know each other over the past few weeks. She told me her story and what she went through. I met his children on the phone.
The family managed to get to Belgium, where Oksana, who was a professional photographer in Ukraine, hopes to find a job. One of the many things the family had to leave behind was her camera, and Meridian students hope to replace it so she can work. They found temporary accommodation for her and, using PayPal, were able to earn her some money from their baked goods sales. Items like the camera and a tablet computer for one of the children to keep up with school can be purchased and shipped directly to Oksana through online retailers.
They also help other families, but Oksana is the one Lexi feels closest to.
The girls spoke to third graders at Meridian Elementary School and, while choosing their words carefully with the children’s ages in mind, they wanted to emphasize that even at their age there was something they could do to help. .
“Even though we live in a small community and you’re not very old yet,” Lexi said, paraphrasing what they told the kids, “there are still things you can do, like be careful in your history class, tell your friends , and it was really fun to be able to talk to them.
Orders for cookies and bread are pouring in quickly, allowing the girls to help Oksana and her family, but more orders are welcome. To order, contact Lexi on Facebook under Lexi Jones; on Instagram at lexi_jones_50; or by email at [email protected]
Evening baking sessions are done in the Jones family kitchen.
“My mother is a saint,” Laney said. “She lets us use her kitchen and sometimes when it’s late she even says, ‘I’m going to do the dishes’.”
Baking is of course not the only responsibility of the girls. They still have school work to do and after the past two years of the pandemic, that sometimes means working really hard to catch up and take tough classes like numeracy. But they are determined to do whatever they can to make a difference for people who are suffering on the other side of the world.
“We’re tired,” Lexi said. “I’m not going to lie.”
But whenever the girls think they can’t handle it all, they think of everything Oksana and the other refugees, and the people still in Ukraine, are going through and it gives them the push to keep going.
Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter