Local Upstate artists, small businesses, teaming up with Greenville humanitarian group to raise money for Ukraine conflict

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GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) – An Upstate group helping Ukrainian refugees and humanitarian workers on the ground is partnering with local artists and small businesses to raise money for the war-torn country.

Bridge City Coffee in Greenville recently held a t-shirt design contest, where a local artist’s sketch was selected to put in merchandise they’ll be selling. All of the proceeds will benefit refugee operations overseas.

“They didn’t take the capital,” said Jack Connolly, who, along with his wife Karolina (who is from Ukraine), founded the Upstate humanitarian organization Direct Support Ukraine.

“Ukrainians fought them back,” he added, describing the situation in the Ukraine-Russia conflict right now. “Now they’ve gone to option number 2, which is try and take whatever they can get. So there’s still heavy fighting.”

For Jack and Karolina, the conflict is still very close to home.

“We have people that we know housing refugees and feeding them in Germany and Poland,” Jack said. “Our grandparents are in southern Ukraine where it’s occupied by Russia right now.”

In just 100 days since the Greenville couple founded Direct Support Ukraine, they’ve managed to raise more than $55,000 to help those assisting refugees on the ground. They say with the conflict still going strong, it’s important to not forget what’s happening; fundraising is more important than ever.

“It’s super important to keep supporting them right now, because there’s still a huge need,” Karolina said.

Enter Greg Ward, owner of Bridge City Coffee on Wade Hampton Blvd. in Greenville, who says it all started when his business decided to get in touch with Jack about 2 months ago, so they could send some of their coffee overseas.

“That was the easiest way we could help out over there, by sending them something to give them some sense or normalcy in the chaos,” Ward told FOX Carolina.

From there, Greg says his wife came up with the idea of ​​a t-shirt design contest. And to their surprise, there was a huge interest.

“I just didn’t really think I would be able to make an impact this soon in my career,” said graphic design artist, Greenville Tech student, and Bridge City employee Lauren Mueller. “I just really want to support them.”

Mueller’s design won the contest out of several online submissions. Her t-shirt will now be printed and sold, with 100% of the profits going to food, fuel, medicine, and more for those being evacuated from the hardest hit areas.

“The words on the bottom say “Support Ukraine” in Ukrainian,” Mueller said of her design.

“I do appreciate people putting that back into the light,” she added, talking about how important it is to continue to support Ukraine. “And I like that people are interested in helping with it. It makes me happy.”

Ward says it’s the perfect example of how you can make a difference from right here in the Upstate, while also enjoying your favorite beverage.

“Nobody gets a profit from this here, and we’re happy about that,” he said. “It’s about bringing the community in Greenville together just to remind them that it’s not over there yet, and they’re going to be picking up the pieces for a long time to come.”

The T-shirts to benefit Ukraine are on the way and will be available in about a week. You can find them right in the merchandise section at Bridge City, or you can buy them online on Bridge City’s website. Again, all proceeds go to operations on the ground in and around Ukraine.

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