Bill Muldoon hands a check to Harpswell Supports Ukraine volunteer Karen Tcheyan during the fundraiser at The School House 1913 on April 6. (BILL SNELLINGS PHOTO)
We watched in horror as entire Ukrainian towns and villages were obliterated. We cried when Russians unmercifully targeted missiles at homes and hospitals, killing entire families. We were sickened by the unimaginable brutality inflicted on innocent civilians fleeing war.
We felt helpless — yet we had to have hope. We had to do something.
And we did.
Harpswell area residents, as well as friends and family in multiple states, opened their hearts and wallets to raise an astonishing $38,500 on April 6 for World Central Kitchen, Save the Children (Ukraine) and Direct Relief Ukraine. The School House 1913, on Harpswell Neck Road, partnered with us and raised an additional $3,200 in Ukrainian bread sales for World Central Kitchen, bringing the total to $41,700 in combined aid to Ukraine.
More than 400 people attended the walk-in event over two hours. We were so busy that some folks couldn’t find parking, but they graciously dropped off checks anyway.
Volunteer Jeff Stann wears a blue-and-yellow ribbon on his hat in support of Ukraine. (BILL SNELLINGS PHOTO)
Providing the spark for “Harpswell Supports Ukraine” were Jerry Klepner and his wife, Karetta Hubbard. Jerry recruited me and I recruited my husband. In three weeks, a team of two dozen Harpswell friends made flyers and posted them, created heart-wrenching videos, sent emails, made charts for volunteers, bought buttons or made small Ukrainian flags. We took two-hour weekend shifts at the town recycling center to pass out information. Drivers who stopped shared their anger and agony over the atrocities in Ukraine and said they were glad we were doing something — anything — to help.
Indoor and outdoor tables and tents at The School House were staffed with volunteers filling out name tags, selling buttons and accepting donations by check, cash or credit card.
Jerry Klepner, one of the organizers of the Harpswell Supports Ukraine fundraiser, speaks at the event. (BILL SNELLINGS PHOTO)
Volunteer Courtenay Snellings hands out flyers at the recycling center prior to the fundraiser. (BILL SNELLINGS PHOTO)
Everyone pitched in. One team directed traffic, another offered shuttle service for volunteers. Executive Chef Joe Arena spent most of his time in front of hot stoves, filling cups of homemade borscht, warming giant Ukrainian sausages and a grilled Eastern European-style potato dish. General Manager Chris Gardner wore too many hats to count, from pouring wine behind the bar to refilling trays of food. Even his wife, Corette, and his two children helped. Helen Norton, owner of the School House property, watched as people streamed in and out of the restaurant. Some gave a dollar or two — others who could afford it contributed $1,000 or more.
“It was a great event in so many ways, but especially that we were all doing something at the same time,” said Harpswell Neck resident Mary Brennan.
Billions of dollars from democracies worldwide are being raised for Ukraine. Our little but mighty town helped.
We wanted to make a difference. And we did it together.
Connie Sage Conner was a longtime editor at The Virginian-Pilot and now serves on the Harpswell News Board of Directors.