People who have left Ukraine wait for a bus to take them to Przemysl station at the Medyka border crossing in Poland on Friday. Hundreds of Utahns, led by Strangeville podcaster and blogger Eli McCann, held a two-event fundraiser for Ukrainians in need. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
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SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds of Utahns, led by Eli McCann, held a two-event fundraiser for Ukrainians in need, all in five days.
McCann, a local lawyer and creator of the Strangerville podcast and popular blog It Just Gets Stranger, served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ukraine from 2003 to 2005. Since then, he has spent many time to live in the country, study its history and get to know the people.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24, McCann’s friends in western Ukraine contacted him in shock, with the sound of bombs exploding outside their homes.
As McCann stayed in touch with these friends and as Russian and Belarusian forces intensified their attacks, largely with civilian casualties, he felt compelled to help.
On February 27, he announced that he wanted to quickly organize an event to raise funds for humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
“Within minutes, dozens (and now hundreds) of people reached out to offer their help and donate space, food and drink, music, silent auction items, and more. “McCann said. “It’s been a whirlwind trying to put together two events in five days, but thanks to the incredible support from our community, everything is falling into place.”
The two-part event is called Foreigners in Ukraine, and 100% of the proceeds will be split equally between two humanitarian organizations: the Ukrainian American non-profit organization Razom and the public charity Lifting Hands International based in Ukraine. ‘Utah.
Both organizations are in Ukraine and on its border, providing people on the ground with medical supplies, food and other necessary survival items.
Events are scheduled for:
- Friday 7-9 p.m. at Publik Coffee Roasters, 975 S. West Temple in Salt Lake City
- Saturday 7-9 p.m. at Cactus & Tropicals, 2735 S. 2000 East in Salt Lake City
Those wishing to attend can RSVP here.
Both evenings will include live music and entertainment, food, drink and a silent auction of items, many donated by members of the local community. Admission is free with a suggested donation of $100.
So far, items listed for the silent auction include art, handmade items, vacation rentals at a Marriott resort in Park City and a desert house in St. George, tickets jazz, restaurant gift cards and more.
“We were overwhelmed by the generosity of donors,” said Silent Auction Coordinator Jolyn Metro. “Donors outside of Utah have even offered items overnight for us to include in the auction. It’s clear that people want to do something, whatever they can, to help. “
Equality Utah, the state’s largest civil rights and LGBTQ advocacy organization, has partnered with McCann and other Strangers in Ukraine organizers to help collect and track donations, both for attendees and for those who cannot attend but still want to donate.
Within the first 24 hours of posting the fundraising link, the team raised around $15,000, with two donors offering up to $15,000 and $25,000.
“These events will be a great way to bring resources to Ukraine, but also a great way to feel some community right now,” McCann tweeted Wednesday.