Merrickville’s Ukraine initiative a success, surpassing goal with one week remaining

MERRICKVILLE, ONT. –

An eastern Ontario community has seen such overwhelming support with their recent initiative to help the people of Ukraine, they believe their initial goal may double.

The “Merrickville-Wolford Stands with Ukraine” initiative kicked off on March 20, and continues through April 10.

“It’s been a huge success. We had a goal of $15,000, we are well passed that,” said Yves Grandmaitre, a board member of the Merrickville & District Chamber of Commerce.

With a week remaining, more than $17,000 has been raised.

“An image is worth a thousand words so the chamber decorated the posts and we bought a bunch of flags and we made them available to the businesses,” Grandmaitre said. “It’s pride, and it’s very important to who we are as a small community to show even a small community can do a lot.”

“The participation has been just amazing,” he added. “Businesses, from restaurants to giving a percentage of their goods, to flying flags, to just contributing with setting things up, everybody has been playing a part in this.”

In the basement of the Holy Trinity Anglican Church on Saturday, an artist taught the unique art of Ukrainian Easter egg painting.

Irene Chahley discusses the art of creating Ukrainian Easter eggs at a workshop in Merrickville. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

“The response has been phenomenal, my workshops pretty much sold out in 24 hours,” said teacher Irene Chahley, part of the Merrickville Artists Guild (MAG).

The delicate art of writing with beeswax using an open candle was always a family tradition for her.

“It’s part of my heritage,” she said. “My parents came over from Ukraine in the 1950s and I was raised with many Ukrainian traditions. Probably at the age of 5, I learned how to start doing Ukrainian Easter eggs.”

“I have also had a lot of support from people who have donated money and they are not even attending the workshop,” Chahley added. “Just strangers I haven’t even met, so my fundraising goal I think is going to be surpassed.”

Chahley says 100 per cent of the proceeds from the workshop will go to the Ukrainian Red Cross.

“It’s not only a Ukrainian crisis, it’s a humanitarian crisis,” she added.

Nick Previsich, MAG president, took the egg-painting workshop on Friday.

“It took a lot longer than I thought, but the product was absolutely beautiful,” Previsich said. “You have to be very, very precise and you have to really pay attention, as Irene told us.”

The delicate process of painting a Ukrainian Easter egg. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

“My wife was there with me as well and she broke both of her eggs, after she completed it, and before she started the other one, so you have to pay attention,” he quipped.

He believes this initiative can be duplicated elsewhere across the region.

“Merrickville is a really special community,” Previsich said. “We have this arts-and-culture history in the village, people love doing these kinds of things, people love giving their time as volunteers to worthy causes and this is most certainly worthy.”

A bowl of finished Ukrainian Easter eggs. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

“The merchants have really stepped forward in the community here and I think that’s reproducible throughout southeastern Ontario,” he added.

Grandmaitre says he has received calls from other local chambers, including Dundas and Perth, on how to replicate their three-week initiative.

“If you walk downtown, people are beaming with pride as to what they have managed to do,” he said. “We reached out to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and actually put a challenge out to the other chambers in Ontario, and a recent virtual call had us reaching 106 other participants.”

“When I went downtown and I saw the Ukrainian flags, I was in tears,” Chahley said. “The initiative here in Merrickville was immediate and the support has been phenomenal.”

She says she has been humbled by the kindness from her community, not dismissing the idea of running a fourth and final workshop next weekend to raise more funds.

“It’s been really heartwarming,” she said. 

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