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Valley continues to be Friends of Ukraine

Food festival, raffles at Warren church raise money

Staff photo / Andy Gray Veronica Allen of Niles checks out the basket raffle items Saturday at the Friends of Ukraine Food Festival at SS. Mary and Joseph Parish in Warren. Fifteen businesses donated food for those who attended the event.

WARREN — Folks filled their stomachs and SS. Mary and Joseph Parish’s social hall Saturday to raise money for the people of Ukraine.

The church’s parishioners organized a Friends of Ukraine Food Festival to help those in the war-torn country. Donald Novorsky, vice chairman of the church’s parish council, said the event came together quickly, less than six weeks after parishioner Gina Woodley suggested doing something.

Woodley had a tear in her eye as she looked at the crowd.

“This is amazing,” Woodley said. “There were some times when I was nervous (during the planning), but people showed up. It exploded.”

When organizers decided on a dinner, they started approaching local restaurants and were greeted with a series of yeses, Novorsky said.

Fifteen businesses — Top Shelf Coffee, Saratoga Restaurant, Lena’s Pierogi House, Beautiful Whirl’d, Buena Vista Cafe, Sorrento’s, Cafe 422, Enzo’s, Sam’s Pizza, Giorgio’s, Vernon’s Cafe, Howland Pizza Works, Warren Plaza Giant Eagle, Mocha House and Paola’s Biscotti — donated food to feed those who paid $20 to attend.

Others donated items for basket raffles and / or provided goods and services at cost, Woodley said.

Guests feasted on Eastern European favorites like pierogi, stuffed cabbage and kielbasa and sauerkraut as well as pizza and a wide variety of desserts.

“Everything’s been great,” Mark Stempak of Newton Falls said. “It shows people are very generous when it comes to something like this. It restores your faith in mankind.”

As she took a second pass at the basket raffle items, Veronica Allen of Niles said, “A friend’s father goes to the church, and we wanted to come out and support the cause. It’s a great idea. The food was wonderful, and I got a nice, expensive bottle of wine from the wine drawing.”

The parish chapter of the Knights of Columbus agreed to match the first $500 in donations to the cause, Novorsky said. An anonymous donor agreed to match the next $500 raised, and they were approaching that goal less than halfway through the event.

“It’s been very successful,” Novorsky said.

He also believes the event had an unintended benefit. The church merged with St. John Paul II Parish when the Diocese of Youngstown closed that church in November.

“I think it’s brought members of the two parishes closer together,” he said. “It’s been a joint effort.”

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