A small business called Door County Candle Company has so far raised $700,000 for relief efforts in Ukraine, spearheaded by business owner Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani.
Trapani is a second-generation Ukranian woman who learned the language before English, according to PBS Wisconsin. On February 24th, the news broke about Russia invading Ukraine, the home of her family and living relatives.
Trapani said some of her relatives tried to escape through Russian-blocked borders while others made it to Poland. Some stayed in their home country. “It’s always fearful and nerve-wracking when you go those few days not being able to hear from them,” she said. “But luckily, they’re doing OK.” The invasion was the impetus that kickstarted the fundraiser.
Trapani and the Door County Candle Factory have been selling blue and yellow candles in the spirit of the Ukrainian flag, each with a “lovely scent of vanilla” that can burn for 72 hours. One employee described the candle’s aroma as “a big warm hug during difficult times.” Profits from the company’s candle sales go to Razom for Ukraine, a nonprofit that delivers supplies, such as bandages, tourniquets, medicine and insulin, as well as help families evacuate.
As sales ramped up, so did the need for more hands. According to Trapani, the company, which works with about 3,000 square feet of space, “went from a small little candle shop that only made 15,000 candles a year to having to make orders of over 65,000 candles.” To meet the demand, the small business hired a team of 500 volunteers with Trapani’s mother acting as the group’s volunteer coordinator. Trapani’s company rented out retail space to pack candles, and with the help of their hardworking volunteers, Door County Candle Company shipped over 29,000 orders in the past 5 months with about 7,000 more orders to go.
“It’s just a wonderful and inspiring thing to know that so many people around you want to help and support and they are standing behind the people of Ukraine, that is incredible,” Trapani said.
Ginger Lord is one such volunteer who’s been traveling all the way from Appleton twice a week to help pack orders since March. Lord said, “We’re happy we can do something and every day is a different day here.” Lord has also said she is blessed to work alongside her husband and wishes she could come more often.
Some volunteers even trekked across the country to offer their help to the Wisconsin business. Storm Russell, for instance, came all the way from California. In an ABCNews interview, Russell said, “I came in from half a continent away. Thank you for just keeping on and keeping on.”
Trapani is proud of how far the team has come and how much money they have raised thus far for Ukraine. For her next donation milestone, they want to reach seven digits. “The goal is a million. So, we are going to hit a million dollar donation,” Trapani said.
It has been over 150 days since the armed conflict ignited, and in the past few months, we have witnessed the spirit of the Ukrainian people in the soldiers on the front lines, those supplying aid to the most vulnerable, and the families of those affected by the tragedy. “Ukraine will survive this,” declared Trapani. “And we will get through it.”