A small business in Chicago wants to help Ukraine build up the funding it needs to stave off Russian invaders.
Citizen Brick, a small business selling custom Lego products, held two fundraisers on March 5 and 16, selling Lego mini-figures of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Lego Motolov cocktails. It raised over $160,000 in sales. Joe Trupia, the owner of Citizen Brick, told the Washington Examiner it would donate the money to the nonprofit organization Direct Relief because it was "top ranked in the NYTimes list of charities helping Ukraine."
"I think he's emerged as a heroic figure in this situation," Trupia said. "I think we responded to his bravery in the face of an invasion. We don't usually make political figures, but he has kind of a distinctive appearance that translated well to minifigure."
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The Zelensky and Motolov cocktail figures were sold for $100 and $10, respectively, for the first fundraiser and fetched $16,540, according to the business's Facebook page. Due to "overwhelming interest," a second fundraiser was held with just the Zelensky figure with hopes of raising $100,000 — a goal that was shattered with $145,388 in donations, the group said.
Trupia told the Washington Examiner Citizen Brick does not intend to sell more of the Zelensky figures, as it is "a very small business" and does not have the resources to make more.
"We hope people will consider a donation to Direct Relief, nonetheless," Trupia said.
The Lego company has not contacted Citizen Brick, Trupia said. However, if the company were to donate more parts to Citizen Brick, the business would "be happy to continue this effort."
The Lego Group told the Washington Examiner Citizen Brick's fundraiser is "the work of an independent retailer which has no connection to the company."
Lego paused its product shipments to Russia "given the extensive disruption to the operating environment" on March 3. The Lego Foundation, Ole Kirk’s Fond, and the Lego Group announced an emergency donation of DKK 110 million, or approximately $16.5 million, to support the people of Ukraine on Feb. 28.
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President Joe Biden gave Ukraine $200 million in military aid on Saturday. The House of Representatives passed a bill on March 9 that designated $13.6 billion for Ukrainian aid.
The European Union announced new sanctions on March 9 that would be imposed on many more top Russian officials, and Biden announced on March 8 a ban on all U.S. imports of Russian oil and natural gas.