A fundraising dinner and silent auction for the people of Ukraine last Friday fed hundreds — and raised thousands.
The fundraiser, which will send the money raised to UNICEF, was a great success, said organizer Olena Zyuba, raising about $34,000.
“I cannot believe how successful it went, starting from just my idea of serving Ukrainian food and raising some money,” Zyuba said. “I’m grateful to every volunteer. Every business. Every artist who donated their goods or services. I felt so happy to be around those people.”
More than 200 guests attended, supported by more than 20 volunteers who cooked, spoke, helped provide technical support, or otherwise kept things running smoothly, Zyuba said.
“We were just so busy. It went so quickly. I can’t believe how quickly it went. People showed up early. Around 6:15 we were not able to take any more people,” Zyuba said. “It was really surprising for me personally when so many people showed up and there were more standing at the door.”
Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, and Rep. David Nelson, R-Anchorage, spoke during the event, and other elected officials, including Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, and Rep. Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage, also attended.
“With how much people struggle in Ukraine right now, every time I close my eyes, I see death and destruction. I see people in Mariupol getting buried in their backyards. I got to the point where I felt I had to do something,” Zyuba said. “To do something positive and really big, it felt really amazing.”
Musicians played and organizers played a video of a child singing the Ukrainian national anthem.
“A few pieces were added to the program just a few minutes before, like the little Ukrainian girl singing the anthem. I think that was the strongest part of the event. When everyone stood up, it felt like it was all connected,” Zyuba said. “We brought people together that felt like they wanted to do something. At the moment when people stood up listening to the anthem, I felt very emotional. I felt very connected to everyone there.”
The Juneau World Affairs Council is acting as the nonprofit bridge to UNICEF for the funds raised, said JWAC board president Carl Brodersen. Brodersen also thanked Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and Tlingit and Haida President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson for donating the use of the space in Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall for the function.
“This effort was a great success. I hope that Juneau and the world keep in mind that there are many places and peoples who are also suffering right now, who are also deserving of a great success,” Brodersen said in an email. “I’m so happy we were able to help do this for Ukraine. I hope we can do more for others, as well.”
The donation window will still be open at jwac.org/ua/ for several days while they finalize things, Zyuba said. For her part, she’s looking to what she can do next, Zyuba said.
“I still would like to do more,” Zyuba said. “I’m thinking about a few other projects that I could help in different ways. I also was approached by a few people from Anchorage who wanted to do something similar.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.