Len and Bernie Mintenko sold sunflowers at the Wakamow Farmer’s Market to add to the work of Moose Jaw’s Rotary Clubs in raising money for Ukrainian refugees in Poland.
The Rotary Club of Moose Jaw and the Rotary Club of Moose Jaw Wakamow joined forces in April to host a fundraising dinner for Ukraine. The homemade Ukrainian-themed dinner was a big success, selling every available ticket.
With donations from local businesses, the dinner raised $11,504.91.
The Mintenkos decided they wanted to help out. As a pandemic project, they've been selling custom-made wooden signs at local farmer's markets, along with sunflowers. The sunflower is Ukraine’s national flower and has become an international symbol for supporters.
“We’ve sold sunflowers before, but not on as big a scale,” Len explained. “This year we decided we wanted to do something for Ukraine, so we planted more and decided to give 50 cents from each plant to that relief.”
Len said that people have come from all over to buy their flowers.
“We’ve got one group of families that bought 100,” he said. “And they’re coming for another 40. And they’re going to be planting them at the homes of refugees in Regina.”
They eventually sold 1,878 plants and collecting an additional $96 in donations outside of their sales.
After their last market day on June 4, they had a few plants left. The SaskTel Pioneers bought the rest. The Pioneers are a volunteer network with over 4,000 members in the province.
“Len had gotten ahold of us, saying he had some extra sunflowers left,” said Ryan Dionne, president of the SaskTel Pioneers. “We thought it was a great opportunity for us to buy the remainder of them and donate them to local schools and seniors’ homes in the community.”
Dionne invited schools and long-term care homes to contact him at email@example.com to receive some sunflowers.
“We’re hoping (the flowers) will be a summer-long reminder as they grow … as to the situation in Ukraine,” Dionne added. “Help people remember as the news cycle moves on.”
With all the flowers sold, the Mintenkos presented Rotary Club members Glenn Hagel and Glen Blager with $1,035.
“This will take us over $12,500,” Hagel said. “What a wonderful idea these sunflowers were. I think that as people look at their sunflowers, that they will be thinking of Ukraine.”
The Rotary Clubs are working to find a specific club that they can partner with and send the money to. Blager noted that the situation in Ukraine and Poland is, understandably, a mess and that it has been difficult to open lines of communication.
Nevertheless, they’re confident they will work out an arrangement. Hopefully, Hagel and Blager said, they’ll also hear some specifics about how the funds helped, which they can then report back to their donors.
The Mintenkos hope their efforts make people more aware of what’s happening on the other side of the world.
“We’re so fortunate here,” Len said. “It’s unbelievable what’s happening.”