Sarasota philanthropist helping Syrian refugees - WFLA News Channel 8

Sarasota philanthropist helping Syrian refugees

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Photo of Syrian refugees. Provided by Yank Barry. Photo of Syrian refugees. Provided by Yank Barry.
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

As the deadly conflict rages on in Syria, the UN says around 2 million people have fled the country, and many are now living in squalor.

Sarasota philanthropist Yank Barry saw a great need, so he's now providing shelter to refugees in Bulgaria.

The UN says since March 2011 Syria has been in chaos.

A conflict within the nation has left it in ruins and killed more than 100,000 people.

As residents flee, thousands have sought refuge in Bulgaria, but that doesn't mean a better quality of life.

Yank Barry said, "Think of a really, really bad prison that's overpopulated with no running water and no heat and no beds."

Barry says it's a destitute country that cannot afford to handle the influx of refugees.

He has seen many of them living in poor conditions.

"17 of them were living on the floor. No bathroom, no running water," said Barry. "It's getting cold here in Bulgaria, it's getting cold in Turkey. They have no beds, they have no blankets, and in most cases… they don't eat for three or four days."

It's a terrible situation, but Barry said its worse back at home.

He said, "A lot of these people…were affluent. Their homes were blown up. They had businesses. They had literally left with the clothes on their back."

So Barry is digging into his own wallet to help.

He has rented out a four-star hotel and he's providing food and shelter to 50 refugees.

He is also going to provide them with Bulgarian language classes and help them with job opportunities.

"They went from hell to heaven," said Barry.

Barry has further plans to rent another hotel and possibly help an additional 60 refugees.

Over the past few years, Barry has provided help to millions of the world's poor, but this is very personal to him.

During World War II, many of his family members died in the holocaust. A few survived thanks to help from the Bulgarian government.

So now he's returning the favor.

"It's really incredible…to get people back a life," he said.

Barry has essentially adopted these families, and he's going to stay with them for the long haul.

Barry has done a lot of humanitarian work around the world, teaming up with big name athletes like Muhammad Ali and Evander Holyfield.   

He is best known as a lead singer for The Kingsmen, who are famous for the hit song "Louie, Louie".

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