In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the refugee crisis it has created, local businesses are holding fundraisers and special events to help.
Several Valley restaurants are raising funds for World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit NGO that provides meals in response to humanitarian, climate and community crises. Per the website, the organization builds resilient food systems with locally-led solutions. Patricia and Jose Andres founded it in 2010 in response to an earthquake in Haiti.
At American Flatbread in Waitsfield, founder George Schenk announced last week that he was holding a three-day fundraiser for World Central Kitchen which at the time was providing over 10,000 meals a day.
“In the past we’d dedicated a certain amount of money per flatbread that we would donate to a cause. But this time we sent a check for $1,000 at the beginning of the week and then folded that into the weekend benefit bake,” Schenk said. “It was a busy weekend,” he noted.
Asked why it was important to him, Schenk because he is in the food business.
“The issue of hunger and the needs of refugees and the work of World Central Kitchen speaks to the work we do. We’re in the business of feeding people and this felt like a constructive contribution that was apart from the contribution of more guns and things that are so hurtful to people,” Schenk explained.
At the Mad Taco in Waitsfield, Montpelier, Essex and Middlebury, 5% of sales from all four sites will be donated to World Central Kitchen for two weeks, starting March 14.
Co-owner Wes Hamilton said it was important to make a donation to an organization that is doing the specific work of World Central Kitchen in feeding Ukrainian refugees.
“It’s really hard to sit back and watch terrible things unfold and you feel for the people affected, their suffering. It’s hard to fathom. It happens far too frequently in the world. The thought of people getting up and leaving their homes and their country with no idea where they’re going, of families being split up is hard to see,” Hamilton said.
“It seemed important to help with something as basic and crucial as feeding people. It’s something that we can do,” he said.
Canteen Creemee Co. in Waitsfield also raised funds for World Central Kitchen. “When the invasion first happened, when the war began, I found myself wanting to participate to help in some way,” said owner Charlie Menard. “I had seen some videos of World Central Kitchen setting up within the first few hours of the invasion … I thought I need to help prepare meals for Ukraine so I cooked for people locally to raise money for World Central kitchen. So I was indeed cooking for Ukraine This next week. I'll do another fundraiser. This time it'll be different; it'll be an ice cream sundae utilizing sunflowers, which is the flower of Ukraine and truly the symbol of Ukraine.”
On Wednesday, March 16, businesses on Bridge Street in Waitsfield banded together to raise funds for Ukraine. “In speaking with our business neighbors last week, we shared our feelings of shock and empathy for the people of Ukraine and talked about the individual initiatives we were making to contribute to those in need,” said Three Mountain Apothecary co-founded Andrea Cox. “It became quickly apparent that we might amplify the impact by coordinating our efforts to engage the community in a collective effort. The idea is simple -- community members can shop locally or order dinner on a weeknight -- but we hope it will generate a significant donation and give us all the opportunity to contribute in some way to the urgent needs of those impacted by this crisis. Each Bridge Street business will run its own operating hours, and we’ll also open up some space in our studio for Emily von Trapp’s gorgeous flower bouquets and Katie Babic’s beautiful hand-pulled prints.” In a Front Porch Forum post, Three Buds wrote, “Each business will be making a donation to either @razom.for.ukraine or another organization bringing support and aid to the Ukraine.”
Hostel Tevere in Warren is also raising funds for Ukraine. In the month of March, it is donating $1 from the sales of all vodka-based cocktails to The Global Empowerment Mission Ukraine Relief Fund. In a message to The Valley Reporter, it wrote, “We wish to do our part to provide direct assistance to the many refugees crossing the Polish border daily. That's where the GEM comes into play. It's providing direct support in Poland to help those displaced due to this evolving humanitarian crisis. People helping people. We've had quite some practice with this, haven't we Mad River Valley?”
Red Hen Bakery and Café in Middlesex sent a check to World Central Kitchen for $9,300 on March 15, per the company’s social media. Red Hen normally collects, counts and submits donations made via its tip jar and the tip line on receipts every couple of weeks, but given the urgent nature of the Ukrainian crisis, tallied up receipts early. Red Hen is continuing to donate 100% of the money left in tips to World Central Kitchen.