Watching Russian bombs drive people from his homeland prompted Maxim Morozoff to call Utah philanthropist and businesswoman Gail Miller a couple of days ago looking to mobilize supplies for the hundreds and thousands of people fleeing Ukraine.
“My first reaction was, yes, we can help,” Miller said.
On Thursday, just days after that call, Miller, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and others kicked off a community fundraiser and donation drive to benefit Ukrainian refugees.
The Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation, the Larry H. Miller Company, several philanthropies and business leaders, and anonymous donors have already raised $2 million, Miller said.
Miller encouraged Utahns to match that sum with monetary donations made to the Community Foundation of Utah through LHM.com.
“Any donation will be appreciated from a dollar on up,” she said at a news conference at the state Capitol.
The groups intend to get the money to trusted and accredited humanitarian organizations on the ground in Ukraine immediately through the Community Foundation of Utah.
In addition to cash donations, the Driven to Assist effort is seeking goods such as new children’s shoes, coats, hats, gloves and mittens, as well as laundry detergent, diapers and feminine hygiene products.
An airplane will deliver the goods to Poland or other countries bordering Ukraine when it is safe, said Mikelle Moore, senior vice president and chief community health officer at Intermountain Healthcare, which is providing the air transport.
More than 1 million Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have streamed into central Europe, including more than 500,000 to Poland, since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Morozoff met the late Larry H. Miller and his wife, Gail, when he came to Utah from Ukraine in 1994. He said they helped him gain an education and experience working in their organization.
“But the most important lesson that I have learned is to build bridges and to help people. My people in Ukraine are suffering right now and desperately need our help,” said Morozoff, the owner of Bon Bon Ice Cream and Gelato Co.
Ukrainians are facing an army led by a person in Russian President Vladimir Putin “who does not have the ability to forgive, who does not know the word mercy, who does not know the word justice,” he said.
Morozoff said he’s grateful for the assistance the United States and Americans are providing Ukraine, “but my fighting and bleeding country needs more. ... By donating simple things, you can make a huge impact.”
Cox said Utah is also in the early stages of discussions, including with Utah’s congressional delegation, about bringing Ukrainian refugees to the state.
“What I’ve told people here is just plan on it,” the governor said.
Cox, sporting both American and Ukrainian flag pins on his lapels, said what is happening in Ukraine is horrific.
“We pray for the innocent and we fervently hope for a peaceful resolution soon. Until that happens, we will do what we can to support those in need,” he said.
Donated goods can be dropped off at five LHM Company locations along the Wasatch Front from March 4 through March 12. Utah first lady Abby Cox’s initiative, Show Up, will help organize volunteer efforts to sort and prepare items for distribution.
Donation sites are located at:
- Megaplex at Jordan Commons, 9295 S. State, Sandy.
- Megaplex at Thanksgiving Point, 2935 N. Thanksgiving Way, Lehi.
- Megaplex at Legacy Crossing, 1075 West Legacy Crossing Blvd., Centerville.
- Smith’s Ballpark, 77 W. 1300 South, Salt Lake City (front lobby, east of home plate gates).
- The Hub Info Studio, 6172 W. Lake Ave., South Jordan.
In addition to the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation, those who have donated to the effort include the Todd and Andie Pedersen Family, Ryan and Ashley Smith, the Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation, the Kem and Carolyn Gardner Family, the Huntsman Family Foundation, Jeremy and Kristin Andrus Family Foundation, the Ron and Janet Jibson Family Foundation, Zions Bank and other anonymous donors.
Other community partners in the project include Sister Goods, Show Up, LiveDaybreak and Utah Food Bank.