Carroll teacher plans to house Ukrainian refugees in Delaware County parsonage



The parsonage next to the Eddystone United Methodist Church will be the new home of a Ukrainian refugee family this summer.

A family forced to leave Ukraine because of the 10-week-old Russian invasion will move to Delaware County this summer with the help of Archbishop Carroll High School business teacher John Lafferty, his church, and donors.

More donations are needed, however, to make sure the refugees’ new home in the Eddystone United Methodist Church parsonage will be comfortable. 

Mr. Lafferty is senior pastor of the Saville Avenue church in addition to his job as a part-time Carroll business teacher. Next to the church is a circa 1908 six-and-a half bedroom, one-and-a-half bathroom parsonage. Although the parsonage was built to house the church’s pastor and the pastor’s family, it hasn’t been used for that purpose for years. The church board saw the opportunity to utilize their empty parsonage for good and decided to house 12-17 Ukrainian refugees there. 

“Our church board felt that we should open the house up for what God would want us to do: help people from across the world who we never met before and who are living in the hell of war,” said Mr. Lafferty. “I cannot believe the love and support that … [is] making this a reality.” 

Assistance has come from various churches, including Ukrainian churches, and groups in Delaware County. One non-profit organization cleaned and painted the interior and various donors have contributed $50,000 toward repairs to the 114-year-old, three-story stone house. An electrical union local donated $7,500. A pipefitter union local is removing old pipe from Mr. Lafferty’s church at no charge and giving the project the proceeds from scrapping the metal. The Cracker Barrel restaurant and shop in Ridley Park donated four rocking chairs for the parsonage’s front porch. Another organization donated curtains and curtain rods for the house.

The house needs around $80,000 in repairs, so an additional $30,000 is needed to complete the home renovation project before the refugees arrive in August. Plans call for electrical and plumbing upgrades, bathroom remodeling, and ceiling repair. In addition, the parsonage needs air conditioner window units and window blinds as well as mattresses, box springs, and bed frames. 

The Ukrainians who will stay in the parsonage are women and children who are members of an extended family. The men have to stay in Ukraine to defend their homeland against Russia. The Nationality Service Center of Philadelphia will be paying the family’s rent and helping them find jobs for the adults and schools for the children. A case manager will be assigned to the family to allow them to get immigration paperwork sorted, their work visas, and stipends for necessities. 

The refugee agency expects the women to be self-supporting quickly so the family will likely move into another house after a year of living in the parsonage, and the parsonage will be able to house another family. However, if the family wanted to extend their stay another year, the church would be open to that, Mr. Lafferty said. 

Carroll’s president, Dr. Patricia Scott, said she was thrilled about the project. 

“Mrs. Papantoniou and I were not aware that this project was going on but I do know some of the teachers knew,” said Dr. Scott. “So it hasn’t been brought to the level, in terms of us supporting it, but I love the idea.” 

Dr. Scott said she, too, had thought about helping when the war started in Ukraine. 

“It’s interesting, when this first happened, I was speaking to other school presidents and said maybe we could approach the archbishop and ask how Catholic schools can help,” she said. “So we were just starting to talk about that, but now the refugees are starting to come, so at the time it was too early to have that conversation. However, now I would love to have that conversation with other presidents to see if we could collaborate together. Maybe this is where we focus because we have a direct link to someone.” 

To help Mr. Lafferty and his church help the Ukrainians, there are plenty of ways to donate.

Money and supplies can be sent directly to the church address: Eddystone United Methodist Church, 733 Saville Ave, Eddystone, PA, 19022.

Monetary donations also can be made through Mr. Lafferty’s and his wife Mrs. Jennifer Lafferty’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization website called The Light of MARNIE.orgThe Light of Marnie organization is a tribute to Mrs. Lafferty’s deceased mother. The organization has contributed to children’s programs in the United States and supports community projects for schools, clean water access, and medical care in Africa.