Businesses and trade groups in Maine are gearing up to send aid to Ukrainians struggling to survive a Russian invasion that has devastated large swaths of Kyiv and other cities in the east.

On Monday, the Retail Association of Maine launched its effort, dubbed “Maine to Ukraine,” asking shop owners around the state to donate clothing to Ukrainians and inviting the public to take part by donating canned meat, energy bars, candies, tea and coffee, condensed milk, pet food, soap and dishes.

The food items can be dropped off at the state’s seven visitor centers and there are plans to set up sites to collect the food at some shops around Maine, but details haven’t been worked out.

Curtis Picard, president and CEO of the association, said he reached out to the head of the Ukrainian retail association to find out what was needed and to work out how to get it there.

“I’ve often said there are associations for everything,” Picard said, although he admitted to being a little surprised that the Ukrainian retail association, located in the besieged capital of Kyiv, was still operating.

He said donations will be accepted until April 1 and the clothing and food will be shipped to a town in Poland near the border with Ukraine, where a Ukrainian retailer has a warehouse. The goods then will be taken into Ukraine for distribution to people affected by the war, he said.


Picard was awed to learn that the Ukrainian association and its CEO, Oksana Prykhodko, continued to operate after Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24.

“I know how hard it was running the Retail Association of Maine when the pandemic hit,” he said. “I kind of put myself in her shoes. I can’t imagine what it’s like to run a retail organization in wartime.”

Maine retailers, Picard said, are eager to help.

“The people of Maine are very generous people and a lot of people said, ‘What can I do? I’d like to do something,’ ” he said. When he was able to contact Prykhodko by email and work out the logistics of getting a shipment of food and clothing to Ukraine, Picard said, it became clear how Mainers could help.

L.L. Bean also is sending aid to Ukraine, and says it is providing about $300,000 in money and products to the embattled nation. The contribution is a combination of company money, an employee match and products, a Bean spokesman said.

The people at One Longfellow Square, a performance venue in downtown Portland, also are eager to help, said Jeff Beam, an executive and programming director at the site.


Beam said Fiona O’Grady, a bookkeeper and office manager, said “she was tired of feeling helpless” about the situation in Ukraine and came up with the idea of the “Concert for Ukraine,” which will be held April 9.

Proceeds from the show will benefit Partners for World Health, a Maine-based group that collects medical supplies and equipment from hospitals and other healthcare facilities and ships them to places where they are needed.


The show will feature performances by Jason Spooner, Joe K. Walsh, Caroline Cotter, Dominic Lavoie, Angelikah Fahray, Clarisse Karasira and others.

Beam said it was no problem getting musicians to donate their time for the cause and the only ones who declined were those who already had commitments to perform elsewhere that night.

“Once you find the first few artists, it kind of snowballs from there,” he said.


Like many others, Beam said, people at One Longfellow Square wondered what they could do to help those in the war zone or the refugees who have fled the fighting.

“We can only do so much, but putting on concerts is what we do,” he said. “It’s a way for the whole community to get involved.”

In addition to selling tickets to raise money, One Longfellow Square also is soliciting donations from those in the community who can’t attend the concert, he said, with the money going to Partners for World Health.

Smitty’s Cinemas also is helping in an effort to raise money this weekend with showings of “The Guide,” a 2014 film set in 1930s Soviet Ukraine. Proceeds will go to nonprofit humanitarian groups providing aid in Ukraine and assistance to Ukrainians who have fled to neighboring countries.

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