Carolina Strong: Local teen uses heritage to welcome others to their new lives

A Union County teen has found her passion in helping others by embracing her family’s background.

Cannel 9′s Elsa Gillis learned how Melaniya Batsuk makes a difference at the Common Heart Food Pantry, a nonprofit in Indian Trail.

“I think more than half of the people who come here now are either Ukrainian or Russian,” said Jack Clark, a volunteer at Common Heart. “So it makes very much easier for us checking people in when we can speak their language.”

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Not only does she help feed families, she’s also providing a lifeline through language to help them navigate their new home.

She told Gillis how glad she is her parents taught her Russian because it’s connected her to so many people.

“I saw his face and I knew he was ours,” Batsuk said about a Russian man seeking help at Common Heart. “I’m like, you know ‘anything I can help you with?’ and he was like ‘Oh my gosh you literally saved me’.”

Batsuk, whose mother is Russian and father is Ukrainian, said she started volunteering to get the hours for school. Now, she just wants to help.

>>> In the video at the top of the page, hear how Batsuk’s embrace of her heritage helped her embrace others in need.

(WATCH: Nonprofit gifts 10-year-old girl’s family with life-changing present)