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Maine seniors raise money for UNICEF response in Ukraine

Nearly 100 senior living center residents attended the benefit on April 2, raising nearly $3,000, which the center matched.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — People who live at the Betsy Ross House in South Portland raised nearly $6,000 for UNICEF in Ukraine after a benefit breakfast April 2.

Betsy Ross House is a senior independent living complex in South Portland. Nearly 100 residents attended a "donate-what-you-can" buffet. Most of them are on fixed incomes.

Assistant kitchen manager Joy Olshin came up with the idea.

"You can't just sit around and do nothing," she said in an interview Friday. 

Culinary staff volunteered to work the event on their day off and also helped to gather donations.

U.S. Navy veteran David Connolly, 81, was there, too.

"I thought it was a wonderful idea," Connolly said. "We should do all we can to help out."

Together, the residents and staff raised more than $2,800 dollars, which the South Portland Housing Authority matched, bringing the total to more than $5,600.

"The residents really rallied behind it. A lot more than I thought they would, to be honest with you," Mike Hulsey, executive director of SPHA, said. "If staff are going to take initiative to come up with ideas to benefit people in Ukraine in this case, why shouldn't the housing authority step up and contribute?"

"It even encouraged people to give more because we know that our money was going to grow and make a difference perhaps," Connolly said.

"Originally, the plan was just very simple, but because of their generous support, it's more than I can think of, and I thank God and the angels here," Olshin said.

Some of the residents have friends and family members still in Ukraine, according to Hulsey. They declined to be interviewed.

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