Two FL businesses raise over $47,500 for Ukrainian relief in one weekend

John Christensen
The Chronicle Express
Dan Mitchell and Rachel Orlyk with their own Ukraine peace sign, specially painted in the nation's colors for display in the store window as a public symbol of support.

KEUKA LAKE — Two businesses at opposite ends of peaceful Keuka Lake have made an exceptional effort to raise funds for the relief of the people of Ukraine who are suffering under the invasion by Russia ordered by Vladimir Putin. In just a matter of one weekend, Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery of Hammondsport and Staving Artist Woodwork of Penn Yan devoted a large portion of their total sales for the worthiest of causes today.

Since Russia began its attack on Ukraine, World Central Kitchen has activated restaurants in Ukraine and four surrounding countries, serving hundreds of thousands of meals to families.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery

Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery is at 9749 Middle Road in Hammondsport.

Like many, Meaghan Frank, the vice president of Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery, and her father, company president Fred Frank, watched news reports showing Russian tanks rolling into their ancestral homeland, Ukraine. Despite what she was seeing with her own eyes, Meaghan said she felt like this wasn’t really happening. But as she and the rest of the world continue to learn, it was — and is — very real. 

“This can’t happen. This is crazy,” Frank said. “Our heart is just breaking from the tragedies unfolding right now. It’s just absolutely awful.” 

As thousands flee Ukraine daily, neighboring nations are working to give families a warm place to stay. In Isai, Romania, the eGros Market & Office Center has transformed conference rooms into shelter while WCK partners prepare meals at the food court next door.

Dr. Konstantin Frank, founder of the winery, emigrated from Ukraine after his family's escape as refugees during World War II. In recognition of those origins and with deep concern for the refugees suffering today, the winery donated half of all proceeds from the weekend of March 4-6 to World Central Kitchen (WCK) and its efforts in helping Ukrainian people.

Largely women and children, the refugees are being fed through the work of organizations like World Central Kitchen.

"In total, we had over 1,500 orders since we included all web sales and all in-person sales and raised $41,814 in total," say the Franks. "That was immediately donated to WCK."

World Central Kitchen states, "We'll be here as long as we're needed. Thank you to all making this possible."

According to WCK, "To date, WCK has served nearly 300,000 meals to refugees in Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Romania, and is also supporting those who are still inside Ukraine. Your gift supports more than 80 local businesses and provides relief to people in 42 different cities. Most importantly, your support will allow WCK to stay nimble and respond wherever they are needed, for as long as possible."

“Food is obviously such an important part in continuing to nourish people throughout this crisis,” Meaghan says. “Wine is a food and food communicates love. This is a natural connection we had to this charitable group.” 

Meaghan says, "We were very pleasantly surprised by the amount that our customers helped us raise this past weekend. My expectation was a quarter of this amount, I could not believe it when I saw the final sales over the weekend. We had customers traveling from all regional cities to come and support this cause, as well as shipping orders all across the country. We knew we needed to get the funds to WCK as soon as possible because they need our help right now. We stand with the people of Ukraine, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families tragically displaced due to this crisis."

The Frank family may try other relief efforts as time goes in, depending on what happens in Ukraine. For now, getting food to people who need it was an immediate necessity. 

"Staving Artist" Dan Mitchell with one of the peace signs ready for shipment.

Staving Artist Woodwork

Also a descendent of Ukrainian immigrants, Rachel Orlyk was inspired to make as much of an effort as she, her husband Dan Mitchell, and their business could muster for the sake of the fleeing refugees and those still in Ukraine.

"It was the day before my 40th birthday and I woke up thinking about the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, which was every morning since the invasion began," says Rachel.  "What I wanted more than anything was peace for the families fleeing their homes with babies and pets on their backs. I thought about the elderly and the sick — innocent people, senselessly suffering while their cities explode. It's far beyond what I can imagine having to endure. Especially now that I have young children of my own. 

"My connection to Ukraine is through my father, artist Harry Orlyk.  All four of his grandparents left Western Ukraine to pursue lives in the United States in the early 1900s. They eventually settled in a Ukrainian community in Cohoes and opened a sausage factory in 1929. (The company is still in operation today but has since been sold.) Their lives were deeply connected to the Ukrainian Catholic church, where my father attended primary school. He is very proud of his Ukrainian heritage and has often expressed an interest in making a trip there to connect with the land and people."

With that deeply felt connection, Rachel says it was a spur of the moment decision to pick up her phone and make a post about the "Peace Sign Donation" on Instagram & Facebook.

"I was not expecting much of a response since we hadn't done any planning for a fundraiser. (Dan actually found out about it after the post had already been shared a few times... whoops!  Although, I knew he would be all for it.)"

Each of the peace signs sold for this effort has a small Ukrainian flag painted on the back as a reminder for the customers.

The first day, Staving Artist sold around 40 peace signs and that number grew to 86 just before midnight on March 5; all of which the exhausted Dan has now completed, soon to be packaged for shipment.

"We also received some cash donations from neighbors and customers," says Rachel. From the Peace Sign sales, 100% of the money taken in was donated, minus some credit card swipe fees and shipping expenses.

"Thirty-nine of the 86 peace signs are shipping to 15 different states, as far away as Washington State. Many of them are gifts that people are sending to friends and loved ones -- a beautiful chain reaction of love and solidarity that we are honored to be a part of," says Rachel. "It feels good that there was so much support and good energy being sent all the way to Kyiv and Kharkiv. A symbol of peace made out of wine barrels has become a symbol of love and solidarity from the Finger Lakes to the people of Ukraine. This community never ceases to amaze us. I went to bed on the 5th, my birthday, feeling very grateful.

"Moving forward, we would love to continue this effort, however and whenever possible.  If a chance to sponsor a family of refugees presents itself, we would love to organize another fundraiser. But next time I will be sure to let production (Dan) in on it ahead of time!" 

You can follow along on Instagram @stavingartist or on Facebook  at www.facebook.com/StavingArtistWoodworks/. See Staving Artist's product lines at their website, https://stavingartist.com/.

Harry Orlyk is currently working on a series of paintings for Ukraine. You can view some of his work at the Staving Artist Store at the corner of Main and East Elm streets in Penn Yan and online at https://www.harryorlyk.com.

Includes reporting by Mike Murphy