Restaurateurs across New York City are raising funds to support Ukrainians impacted by the Kremlin’s invasion of their country and fundraisers are saying the funds will reach Ukraine “today, not weeks from now.”
Garry Kanfer, a descendant of a Ukrainian Jewish family, and owner of the Kissaki mini-empire of omakase-focused eateries, has formed a non-profit organization, America for Ukraine, dedicated to funneling relief to Ukrainians in need.
“We are devoted to finding projects directly. We don’t fund middle men. We have no expenses. We are building an organization which will be the fastest way to fund people in need in Ukraine today — not weeks from now,” Kanfer told the New York Post.
Kanfer is not alone.
Keith McNally, owner of the Balthazar located in New York’s SoHo district, has managed to raise $100,000 for UNICEF’s Protect Children in Ukraine charity.
McNally donated an entire evenings revenue from his restaurant to the cause which totaled $50,000, a contribution which was then immediately matched by one of his VIP customers, Scott Asen.
In an Instagram post McNally wrote, “I hope this inspires other restaurants in New York and London to do the same. (If not all the night’s proceedings then perhaps a percentage.)”
McNally operates several restaurants in New York including Balthazar, Minetta Tavern and Morandi, and he says that “every penny” earned on March 22 will be going to the UNICEF charity.
McNally told Side Dish, “I’m doing it because I feel it’s my duty. I’m not sure I could live with my conscience if I didn’t. I don’t care whether other restaurants do the same thing, but nonetheless I’m surprised that none of the restaurateurs in London and New York I’ve asked to join in have said yes. After all, in the end, we’re all connected.”
Kanfer is busy getting money to Ukraine where he owns a digital advertising agency that has offices in Kharkiv, a part of the country that has experienced heavy bombing from Russia.
He said he has spent around $60,000 to help evacuate 58 of his 60 employees to safety in Poland and elsewhere. He said one of his employees stayed to fight the Russians and another stayed to tend to elderly parents, however is now trapped in Russian occupied Chuhuiv.
Following his efforts, others reached out for help and Kanfer said he couldn’t say “no.”
To date, Kanfer and other New Yorkers with family and friends in Ukraine have raised $250,000 of their own money to send to trusted people in Ukraine to deliver food and medicine to people in need. It was this outpouring of support that inspired Kanfer to launch the America for Ukraine non-profit.
“We find out who needs help and we get it to them directly through people on the ground, without waiting to ship. These people need help today – not weeks or a month from now,” Kanfer told the New York Post.
Kanfer and his team are in the midst of developing a GoFundMe campaign that will link to their website, AmericaforUkraine.org.
Numerous restaurants stepping up
Other restaurants contributing to the cause include City Winery, which on March 10, held a concert hosted by gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, for Care.org, Doctors Without Borders and Come Back Alive. The concert, starring Patti Smith and Suzanne Vega among others, raised $130,000.
“We felt honored to support the Ukrainian people by bringing together New Yorkers who wanted to show their solidarity and connection to the freedom loving good people being horrifically invaded by Russia,” said City Winery founder Michael Dorf.
Graydon Carter’s Waverly Inn, has also offered support while renowned Chef Jose Andres has been serving meals to refugees at the Polish border. “On Monday, Terroir posted that it would also donate ‘every single penny of sales’ to Andres’ World Central Kitchen,” the New York Post Reported.
In addition, Daphne, Gerber Group’s new club, is concocting a specialty cocktail to support women and girls in Ukraine in partnership with Dewars. A percentage of sales will be donated and matched by Dewars, to the Ukrainian Womens’ Foundation, according to Side Dish.