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Local foundation helps furnish, maintain foster home in Ukraine

September 3, 2008, 11:00 2923 Author: Michele Gerlach andalusiastarnews.com Two truckloads of furniture left Andalusia Friday bound for Ukraine, where the furniture will be used to furnish Sasha's Home, a foster care home for abandoned children founded by the local Barnes Family Foundation

Two truckloads of furniture left Andalusia Friday bound for Ukraine, where the furniture will be used to furnish Sasha's Home, a foster care home for abandoned children founded by the local Barnes Family Foundation.

The trucks carried furnishings for 45 bedrooms, eight living rooms and dining rooms, bar stools, kitchen counters, tables and chairs.

"We're shipping everything but the kitchen sink," Sister Barnes laughed.

Better known as "Sister Schubert," Barnes was working at her company's bakery in Luverne several years ago when she was asked to attend a Rotary meeting.

"I told them I had on blue jeans and a baseball cap," she said, "not exactly what a woman is expected to wear when she visits Rotary."

The speaker was a missionary from Ukraine who described his work with abandoned children who had no chance of adoption. That was the beginning of Barnes' work with the Abandoned Baby Center in Gorlovka, Ukraine.

Very soon, she began shipping food and clothing to Ukraine, and Kenny Payne, the man who had spoken at the Luverne Rotary Club, encouraged her to come and visit.

"Finally, God said, 'You're going,'" she said.

As her work in Ukraine increased, she bought an apartment there, which she uses when visiting and lends to missionaries and couples adopting children.

And eventually, she began work on Sasha's Home. Unlike an orphanage, she wanted Sasha's Home to have more of a family feel.

Abandoned children normally are sent to state-run orphanages that are similar to ones used in the United States 50 years ago, she said.

The newly renovated, bright yellow building has apartments where foster parents will care for children in a family setting until they meet their forever families. The facility can house up to 90 children.

"Our goal is to provide the love and care of a family until they meet their forever families, wherever those families might be," she said. "It's not up to me, it's up to God to choose them."

Most of the funding has been from the Barnes Family Foundation.

"Last year we did a fund-raiser at Seaside that raised more than $100,000 in one night," she said. "I didn't really want to ask people for money until I knew it was going to be a reality."

A year ago, Barnes' brother, who is a contractor by trade, offered as a Christmas gift to her to travel to Ukraine and oversee construction. He has spent the better part of a year there, she said.

"He said he was willing to give up his work for a year and only wanted to be compensated a minimal amount to live on," she said.

Earlier this summer, members of Barnes' family traveled to Ukraine to dedicate Sasha's Home. Among the dignitaries present for the ceremony was the mayor of Gorlovka.

"It would be the equivalent of having the governor of Alabama there," explained Barnes' daughter, Chrissie Duffy, owner of Chrissie Schubert's Treats in Andalusia. Duffy prepared cookies featuring the logo of Sasha's home for the ceremony.

But when it came time to furnish the apartments that comprise Sasha's Home, the project hit a snag. Furniture is extremely costly in Ukraine, Barnes said.

"Sister approached me and asked if there was any way we could put together what they needed," said Tom Goodspeed, corporate buyer for Barrow's Furniture.

Goodspeed began to work with furniture companies and was able to get the furniture for the project at a fair cost. Next, came the logistics.

"We're used to importing, not exporting," Goodspeed said. "And the Ukrainian government is not the easiest to work with."

The furniture left Barrow's headed for a ship that will carry the containers to the Port of Odessa, from where it will be transported to Sasha's Place.

"We just got the final approval to do this at 9 o'clock last night," Barnes said as she watched the furniture being loaded Friday morning.

"That was the final affirmation for me to know this was going to happen," she said.

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