Candle fundraiser supports Ukraine community in Old Bridge and beyond


OLD BRIDGE – The recent events in Ukraine prompted two Old Bridge High School teachers to “help in any capacity” that they could.

“We have many students who immigrated from Ukraine over the last few years,” teacher Brittany Fuentes said. “Their families, friends, and loved ones are still currently living there.”

Fuentes and Nicole Engebos, who both teach English as a Second Language, with the help of their students and other staff members, have created candles with the two colors of the Ukrainian flag, yellow and blue.

“Nicole created the idea to create the candles with the two colors of the flag,” Fuentes said, adding Engebos also “researched and explored all the supplies needed.”

“The students have worked diligently over the last few weeks to create them. It has been such a great opportunity for them to collaborate on a project that will have a significant impact,” she said.

The teachers and their students made 120 candles to initially sell to Old Bridge High School (OBHS) students.

When they expanded the sale to faculty and staff district-wide, the candles were sold out in three days and prompted the group to start production of 120 more candles.

“With the support of administration and the Board of Education (BOE), we were able to begin taking preorders from faculty and staff district-wide and we anticipate making more in the coming weeks to fulfill that demand,” Fuentes and Engebos said.

Schools Superintendent David Cittadino displayed a candle at a BOE meeting on March 15. He said the Ukranian community in Old Bridge is “rich and thriving.”

Proceeds from the candle sale will go to Razom for Ukraine, which is providing critical humanitarian war relief and recovery depending on the most urgent needs as they evolve during the war between Russia and Ukraine.

With 60,000-plus donors, the organization has raised $12 million-plus in funds, according to its website.

The organization is currently focused on delivering tactical medicine items, hospital supplies and tech enabled emergency response supplies that facilitate the of the aid. They send on average more than 70 pallets of aid to Ukraine each week with the help of partners on the ground such as Kryla Nadiyi (Wings of Hope), Euromaidan-Warszava, and Ukrainian Education Platform, according to its website.

Razom has maintained an open Emergency Response project since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014. When reports came that Russia began amassing troops on Ukraine’s border, they began actively promoting for the Emergency Response fund again on Feb. 18, according to its website.

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