yousing the bright yellow sunflower, Ukraine’s national flower, a Joplin florist hopes to help the people of this war-ravaged country.
Higdon Florist, located at 201 E. 32nd St. in Joplin, is hosting a fundraiser where shoppers can add sunflowers to an arrangement for $5 per stem. Proceeds from added sunflowers will go to Samaritan’s Purse to aid ongoing relief efforts in Ukraine.
“We are trying to raise awareness of what is happening in the region of Ukraine,” said Lance Hoopai, owner of Higdon Florist.
The war in Ukraine has produced the fastest growing humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II. More than 2 million refugees have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries since late February, according to Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian relief organization.
“You have a situation where there’s a lot of suffering, a lot of pain,” Hoopai said. “Politics aside, we need to be able to reach out because people are hurting. There must be something we can do. If we can do anything to help, I think we should.
The war continued unabated on Monday as Russia launched its dreaded full-scale offensive to take control of eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced.
“Now we can already say that Russian troops have started the battle for Donbass, for which they have been preparing for a long time,” he said in a video address. Zelenskyy said that a “significant part of the entire Russian army is now focused on this offensive”.
Donbas is the industrial heartland of mostly Russian-speaking Ukraine to the east, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years and have declared two independent republics recognized by Russia.
In recent weeks, the Kremlin has declared taking Donbass its main war objective after its failed attempt to storm kyiv.
“No matter how many Russian soldiers are taken there, we will fight,” Zelenskyy promised. “We will defend ourselves. We will do it every day.
Zelenskyy’s announcement came as Russia shelled the western city of Lviv and numerous other targets across Ukraine in what appeared to be an intensified attempt to crush the country’s defences. At the same time, the Kremlin continued to build up its forces in the east.
At least seven people are believed to have been killed in missile strikes on Lviv, a city near the Polish border that has seen only sporadic attacks for nearly two months of war and has become a haven for civilians fleeing fighting elsewhere . To the growing anger of the Kremlin, Lviv has also become a major gateway for NATO-supplied weapons.
In other developments, a few thousand Ukrainian troops, according to Russia’s estimate, remained locked in a gigantic steelworks in Mariupol, the last known pocket of resistance in the devastated southern port city.
Additionally, Zelenskyy submitted a completed questionnaire in the first step toward joining the European Union — a desire that has been a source of tension with Moscow for years.
“A Natural Fit”
Seeing reports of suffering was the motivation behind the fundraiser, Hoopai said. His family has always had a missionary spirit, participating in mission trips all over the world. The store also sold products made by refugees.
Hoopai contacted Samaritan’s Purse because her family knew of the organization’s work from previous projects. Samaritan’s Purse currently has members of its disaster response team on the ground working with Ukrainian refugees in Poland and Moldova, as well as mobile hospitals in the region.
“It seemed natural to find out if there was anything we could do to help what’s going on in Ukraine,” Hoopai said.
The fundraising response exceeded Hoopai’s expectations. He said he was grateful to the community of Joplin and surrounding areas for their support and commitment to the cause. Some customers have come in and ordered whole arrangements of sunflowers just to support the charity.
Hoopai plans to continue this fundraising until the end of April. However, depending on the community’s response, he may be willing to continue for longer. He hopes the fundraiser and the sunflower will continue to be a source of hope for the people of Ukraine.
“If you look at the Ukrainian flag, it’s blue on yellow,” Hoopai said. “It’s a sky above a field. The bright yellow of the sunflower and the yellow of the flag bring out this sense of life.