The organizers of a fundraiser for Chuhuiv, Ukraine, present a plaque to the event’s host, The School House 1913. From left: organizer Jerry Klepner, Executive Chef Joseph Arena, organizer Connie Sage Conner, and General Manager Christopher Gardner. (Bill Snellings photo)
More than 200 people, anxious to help war-torn Ukraine, turned out for a May 10 fundraiser to buy one or more badly needed vans for Chuhuiv, a small city near Kharkiv. Chuhuiv was targeted by Russia on the first day of the war, in February 2022.
The Harpswell community raised more than $23,000 to buy at least one used vehicle, and likely two, for Chuhuiv to deliver medical supplies and food to its eight surrounding villages. Some 10,000 villagers are older people.
The School House 1913 provided Ukrainian food, beer and wine at no cost, hosting a fundraiser for Ukraine for the second time. Harpswell residents raised more than $40,000 in April 2022, soon after the war started. Those funds were sent to the nonprofits World Central Kitchen, Save the Children, and Direct Relief Ukraine. Tax-deductible donations to this year’s fund drive for Chuhuiv can still be made at taps.org/harpswell.
Viktoriia Khomenko, who heads up project management for Chuhuiv, was overwhelmed by the town’s generosity. “These photos made me cry,” Khomenko said after seeing pictures of the event. “All those little details, people, just incredible.”
Many donors proudly wore yellow and blue, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. A video of Chuhuiv Mayor Galina Minayeva praising Harpswell was played in Ukrainian, with English subtitles.
Some 20 volunteers pitched in by passing out flyers at the town’s Recycling Center and Transfer Station, posting flyers and signs around town, or staffing computers for donations at the event.
Organizers Jerry Klepner and Connie Sage Conner presented a plaque to School House 1913 General Manager Christopher Gardner and Executive Chef Joseph Arena. Helen Norton, owner of the School House property, also was honored.
Harpswell is working with the Virginia-based Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. The nonprofit, known as TAPS, is handling delivery of vehicles from Eastern Europe to Ukraine. Costs and method of delivery to Chuhuiv will be based on availability of vans, drivers and safe routes into Ukraine.
TAPS Ukraine supports Ukrainian soldiers, internally displaced people, families who have lost a loved one, and others suffering in the conflict. It has been working in Ukraine since Russia’s first invasion in 2014.
Chuhuiv’s military air base was destroyed by a Russian missile attack in February 2022. Two schools and apartment buildings also were destroyed or damaged and a 14-year-old boy was killed. The city was soon liberated from Russia by Ukrainian forces. Later, rockets were fired at apartments, killing three people and injuring hundreds. Chuhuiv is now trying to rebuild.
“We all hope that this devastating war will end soon,” said Klepner, one of the organizers. “The people of Harpswell have been incredibly generous by donating money to aid Ukraine and our wish is that another fundraiser for the country and its people will not be needed.”