Last night, in the beautiful, blue-lit sanctuary of the Wilmington United Methodist Church, heartwarming songs were separated by moving readings of poetry and prose that emphasized the theme of the evening – Songs of Hope and Peace.

The musical performances by members of Cantabile, under the expert direction of Seth Parshall, brought the fears and reality of the current war in Ukraine into focus.

Our hope for peace must be central to our thoughts and prayers for the innocent people of Ukraine, but more is needed. There must be an end to the fighting. That is the only way they can begin rebuilding.

Thoughts and prayers – empathy – for the thousands of innocent Ukrainians who have been killed, injured, and forced to flee their once beautiful, peaceful country are not enough.

I am sure that at one point in your life, you have been in trouble. It may not have been anything major. Unlike the Ukrainians, you may not have been worried about being bombed and killed, but you knew you were in trouble.

When that happened, who did you call?

Most of us have just a small group of family members or close friends who we can trust when the chips are down. We may not see them often, but when we do it’s a celebration. Just knowing you are going to be with them and enjoy their company brings a liberating joy. Those are people you can count on in times of trouble.

A good friend once told me that the five most welcome words you may ever hear, particularly when you are in trouble, are these” “I am on my way.” We need to assure the Ukrainians that help in on the way.

Nine years ago, as Wilmington Mayor, I established a sister city relationship with the city of Merefa, just 15-miles south of Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukraine. Merefa is home to slightly over 22,000 peace-loving people. Their mayor, Veniamin Sitov, welcomed us to their community and treated us like family.

Recently, a small group of Wilmington residents representing the Wilmington Friends (Quaker) meeting, the Wilmington United Methodist Church, and the Wilmington Faith Lutheran Church met to establish a pathway for funds to go directly from Wilmington to our sister city of Merefa.

Utilizing the resources of the Friends Meeting, that is now possible. Checks may be made out to the Wilmington Yearly Meeting (Quakers). On the memo line, write “Merefa.” Mail your contributions to the Wilmington Yearly Meeting Office, Pyle Center, Box 1194, 1870 Quaker Way, Wilmington, OH 45177. Those checks will be processed, and the funds will be forwarded directly to our friends in Merefa.

This certainly does not eliminate other ways of showing support to Ukraine. Nearly every church has a means of sending support to areas of disaster. The United Methodist Committee on Relief is the one used by the local Methodist Church. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the American Red Cross will forward donations to Ukraine.

We even have a local volunteer, Cathie Streator, 937-725-2981, who is making colorful pins of the Ukrainian flag for people to purchase and proudly wear to show their support for Ukrainian peace and freedom.

Earlier this morning, I tried to contact Mayor Sitov to see what we could do to help them. As I expected, it was impossible to get through by telephone. None of the landlines or cellphone connections were working.

On the Merefa website is this sad message from Veniamin, “Dear residents of Merefa! In connection with the military aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine and in order to ensure the defense of the state, the Decree of the President of Ukraine announced a general mobilization. Soldiers and volunteers of Merefa are to appear at the collection point, which is located in the Administrative Services Center on Peremohy Square. Please support our boys and help them gather a supply of food. You can only bring durable goods. The collection point works around the clock in the center of administrative services on Peremohy Square.”

What a sad, horrible announcement to post on their city website. They need our help.

Certainly, keep our Ukrainian sisters and brothers in your thoughts and prayers, but also send them donations that can be used to purchase the supplies they need to win back their freedom.

While help is on the way, we must continue to pray for Hope and Peace.

Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist