Door County Candle Company raises nearly $1M in donations for Ukraine, as country marks one year of war with Russia
WISCONSIN (CBS 58 News) -- A young business owner raised nearly $1 million in donations for Ukraine, as the one-year mark since the war with Russia strikes.
"It was one of those moments, like, you hope you never have to relive because it was just horrible," said Christiana Trapani. "I just remembered thinking, like, I need to do something, I don't know what that is, but I can't just, you know, can't breathe and feel helpless."
As Ukraine marked one year since Russia's invasion, ending decades of relative stability in Europe, for Trapani, the beginning of that war is still very fresh.
"I remember waking up, and I actually got a text from one of my friends and she said, 'I'm so sorry,' and I was like, 'what?'" she explained.
This hits home for the Door County resident who's a second-generation Ukranian.
"I've always been very proud of my Ukraine heritage and my family always raised me strong in my Ukrainian roots," she said. "I still speak it; I learned it before I learned English...when I was growing up."
Trapani said her grandparents had no choice but to flee from Ukraine during World War II. So, to watch the news unfold that their home country would be under attack once again, seven decades later, was beyond heartbreaking.
"She was like physically shaking on the couch," Trapani said, describing watching her grandmother watch the news.
"We called my aunt and then they had sent, they sent videos, of like, that they took of planes dropping bombs near their home and in the background it's just like, screaming and crying from, of them, and their family and friends, and I'm like, 'how is this happening in 2022?'" she exclaimed.
Having recently acquired Door County Candle Company just 8 months before the war broke out, Trapani turned to the vanilla-scented wax as a source for donations--something one of the candle-makers, Jacob Vandervelden said has kept him busy for a year now.
"We pour the first half-- the yellow, and then we let it sit overnight usually, and then we'll top it with blue in the morning," he said.
For Trapani, the original $5,000 goal seemed like a stretch.
"I really thought we weren't going to sell very many candles and in that first day we had sold like 250 online," she said.
The company used to only make about 15,000 candles a year.
Larry Mickelson, who was the first person Trapani hired, said this was definitely a first.
"We never had full tables like this, we had like, little groups of different fragrances and stuff like that," Mickelson added.
"We've sold and made well over 90,000 just in the Ukraine candle," Trapani told CBS 58.
The company prides itself in being entirely handmade and crafted.
"We melt solid wax, we melt it into liquid then...we put it in the tank, then we add color, fragrance and some other things to it and then mix it all up, and then once it's ready to go we pour it into the glass," Vandervelden said.
The Door County Candle Co. staff consists of 11 people. Trapani said there's no doubt its success is due to the incredible response from local and even out-of-state volunteers who flew in to help and meet the demand.
"I mean thousands of hours and hundreds of volunteers," she said.
At least one Ukraine candle has been shipped to every state in the U.S. and in Canada.
To date, the company has raised more than $868,000 and 100% of the proceeds go to a nonprofit called Razom, which translates to 'Together' in English. Trapani said she believes they are a transparent organization that takes care of sending tactical medical kits, hospital supplies, food and medicine, as well as helping evacuate people and providing shelter.
The Door County Candle Co. owner said they've sent more than 10,000 tin candles to families and to those fighting in Ukraine. The victims have told her sometimes, this is their only source of light.
From the Razom warehouse in New Jersey, she said they are sent to Poland, and from there to Ukraine.
This effort has sparked the idea for other fundraisers to come to fruition. They've already raised about $14,000 to help the devastation in Florida caused by Hurricane Ian, and most recently, the candle company has partnered up with UNICEF to help earthquake victims in Syria and Turkey.
"It just shows how, like, how impactful people can be and how much they care," she said.
Trapani said the Ukrainian crisis opened her eyes to wanting to be a philanthropic candle company. While her people continue to live in fear and uncertainty, Trapani hopes her source of light continues to illuminate those who need it most.
"We have a platform now to make a change, and a difference, and we have to continue doing that in any way we can," she said.