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Keokuk residents providing haven for Ukrainian refugees

Will Buss

A new coalition in Keokuk is helping Ukrainian families find refuge in southeast Iowa.

The Keokuk Refugee Coalition was formed after like-minded residents met to see how they could help those seeking refuge from Ukraine and the ongoing war between their home country and Russia.

“We're just kind of just a group of citizens that were interested in trying to be of some help,” coalition organizer Louise Orozco said.

The coalition has partnered with the Keokuk Area Community Foundation and the Keokuk Christian Ministerial Association to help refugees find shelter and employment for the next two years.

The coalition has also worked with local employers to help find job openings for refugees.

“They’re not really looking for a handout,” Orozco said. “They just want help to get here, and they'd like to work, if they can, if there's available work. And we do have available work in our community. We've been in contact with some employers.”

Orozco said the coalition is bringing two families to town and is looking to help more.

The first is a couple who are expected to arrive on Oct. 30. Orozco said the man and woman are both 27 years old. She said he was a cook on a merchant marine vessel that had operated out of the Port of Ukraine before the war-torn area forced him and his wife to flee.

The coalition has found an apartment for the couple, and another apartment for another couple and their two-and-a-half-year-old son who will be arriving in Keokuk later this year.

This initiative is supported by local residents’ donations. Orozco said the community’s response and willingness to help has been very strong.

“We're kind of I've been surprised how supportive people have been,” she said. “We've had several donations and we're just continuing to get that word out.”

The coalition is looking to collect more contributions to help other Ukrainian refugees who want to relocate to Keokuk for a two-year period.

Those who are interested in donating to this cause or want to learn more about the coalition can visit the coalition’s website.

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