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Introducing our newest Board member – Kerry Garikes

Kerry is a St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes (SSSAS) alum (2008) and also graduated from UVA and Yale.  She just moved to Seattle, WA where she is working as an architectural designer for a commercial architectural firm — and enjoying Seattle’s hottest summer on record!  Kerry is researching various options to refresh the design of the AFPVO web page — suggestions are welcome.  Any web designers out there???  Interested parties can reach Kerry at

The Board met with Mihail Tanase via Zoom to discuss plans for a new house and review the status of life at Pro Vita.

Fr. Sean returned from his July trip to Pro Vita in early August.  He noted that the Ukrainian refugee children are finally  feeling “rooted” in their new home; things there are going well, and daily life is in a rhythm.  Fr. Roman, the Ukrainian priest who accompanied the elderly evacuees, has remained with them in Valea Plopului.  New pictures have been added to the website Gallery (  The fifth building in Posesti should be finished in the next 2-4 weeks.  It will serve as common space, kitchen, etc.  The four houses there are occupied by Ukrainian refugee families and children from the institution in Kiliya, Ukraine.

Big News is that Mihail and Melanie have proposed building another house on the Social Center property in Valenii de Munte, adjacent to the new basketball court.  The house will be a home for 8 more teens and will cost about $50,000 USD in addition to all the building materials Mihail has collected. The AFPVO Board has agreed to fund the construction.  This means that your donations are more important than ever as this is a very large project for AFPVO.  The Board and the Tanases would like to name the new house in honor of all of you who have supported Pro Vita  through the years.  The American House?  The AFPVO House?  Your suggestions are most welcome.

Several of the state-sponsored facilities that received Ukrainian children early on have announced closings around 1 October.  Pro Vita has generously decided to take 20 children from one facility and two teens from another in an effort to keep these displaced children together. Housing the additional 22 children is an enormous challenge. 

Until the new house is habitable, some of the children will live at the Social Center as the library/school room is being converted to a large bedroom with the acquisition of more bunkbeds. The others will be housed in the Admin Center in Valenii de Munte, which is being re-purposed as a dormitory facility. 

The Board approved the blueprints, and transferred starter funds to allow Mihail to purchase steel and concrete for the foundation.  Kerry will use her architectural expertise to review the interior plans and consult with Mihail on the build-out.

The covering of the raw concrete walkways at the Social Center has fallen to lower on the project priority list given the demands of the refugee situation.

Somehow in the midst of all of this, the Tanases managed to arrange summer vacations for both the Romanian and Ukrainian children. The Romanian children are enjoying vacations on the Black Sea and the Ukrainian children are at a mountain resort where they have seen and used a swimming pool for the first time!  

Mihail and Melanie are spending a lot of time in Family Court and working with the Romanian authorities to straighten out all the guardianship issues as the war continues and the Ukrainians are becoming semi-permanent residents at Pro Vita.

The basketball court is being finished as you read this.  

The Ukrainian teachers are still rotating to the Social Center every 6 weeks or so.  Antuanetto has been there since April and will be returning after a brief vacation in Romania with her husband.  Evgenii who was there in April likely will be returning in October.

The Ukrainian government is requiring the refugee children to attend Ukrainian school on-line, using pre-recorded lessons.  If any of you struggled with on-line school in the U.S during the worst of COVID, you can appreciate the minimal value of this approach, especially with the intellectually disabled refugees.  Mihail is coordinating with the Ukrainian Embassy in Bucharest to ensure that broadband connections and devices are adequate to make the best of this situation.  UNICEF is also supposed to be providing an on-line instructional system.


Thanks, as always, to our sustaining donors: Wendell B., Terry K., and the SSSAS Parent-Teacher organization (APT),  and to new donor: Allison W.  Our thanks also to MaryClaire F. for the lovely, handmade scarves she has donated.

We will order a new banner to be hung in the Social Center Dining Room that recognizes those donors whose multiple contributions in the last five years total $1000 or more.  Is your name on the list?  These consistent contributors are:  Donna S., St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church and Philoptochos Chapter 2049, Minneapolis, MN; Leigh and Dennis M., Wendell B., Dibby C., the Tarr-Free Families, Fotini C., St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, Falls Church, VA; Jennifer D., and John G..  Together these committed supporters of Pro Vita have donated almost $80,000 in the past five years!

Donna & Frank have initiated contact with the local Rotary organizations and will be sharing the Pro Vita story via speaking opportunities and grant submissions in the coming months.

Frank & Donna will return to Pro Vita in early October to check on the house progress and the refugee assimilation.

With gratitude to all of you,

The AFPVO Board

Fr. Sean Cavanaugh, Chairman

Donna Shelton, President

Frank Doe, Treasurer & Secretary

Kerry Garikes, Communications & Design

Shelby Stowers, At Large


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