PALMETTO, Fla. (WFLA) – When Russia started invading Ukraine and millions of people began planning their escape from the country, Marvin Lane says he wondered what was going to happen to the orphan children across the country.
The Palmetto man and president of Generation Hope International has spent nearly three decades rescuing and caring for abandoned children in neighboring Romania. In 1999, he and his wife created the Village of Hope which has served as a safe haven for more than 60 orphan children over the years.
“We made a commitment to them. They became our family because they had no family,” said Lane. “When I get up every morning, this is my purpose.”
The Village of Hope is made up of five family-style homes for the children. Each home has six bedrooms, a kitchen, living room, dining room and laundry facilities. There is also a guest house on the property. Up until recently, the facility was housing 28 Romanian children.
When the conflict in Ukraine started, a new opportunity to help arose.
“I knew that these children were going to suffer greatly, so we began to partner with other NGOs [non governmental organizations] that were in Ukraine. Our first request was to bring 20 orphan children into our homes. We were very well-equipped for that many. Then our next request was 74 children and the challenge was certainly there,” said Lane. “For us to have 28 children and then all of a sudden we have 94 more come in – just the simple daily needs are challenging with the clothes, the food, the facilities – everything is just overflowing with needs.”
The children range in age from six months old to 17 years old. Six caregivers accompanied them on their difficult journey across the border.
“Their vans ran out of gasoline, they had no other means of getting to the border other than walking. A three-day journey in freezing weather, snowing, no facilities, no comfort and then they got to the border and it took almost 24 hours just to get them through,” explained Lane.
Lane says he’s preparing as if the children will not be able to go back to Ukraine.
“We made a lifetime commitment. If they cannot go back to Ukraine, we are going to keep them and they become our family,” said Lane.
He’s traveling to Romania Wednesday to help with logistics at the Village of Hope. He will return in 10 days to continue fundraising efforts stateside.
He calls Skyway Community Church the “home base” of his work overseas. His son, Jason Lane, is the pastor of the small church in Palmetto.
Pastor Lane says the congregation has already helped raise thousands of dollars to help the orphan children, but says there’s a long road ahead.
“To see your parents just say, we are willing to not worry about our tomorrow so that we can take care of children today. There’s nothing better as a son because it just sets a legacy for you to follow and I love that,” said Pastor Lane.
The church is helping raise money for food, medical care, clothing and facility expansions. Anyone interested helping can find details on how to donate to the cause at skywaycc.org.
“We have 94 children. If someone wants to sponsor or feed a child, it is $2 a day and that is three good meals for the children. It is $60 a month to be able to feed one child. Everything that is given through donations whether it be one time or monthly, 100% will go to the children to care for them,” said Lane.