Idaho Woman Brings Light to Her Hometown in Ukraine
The ongoing conflicts in Ukraine have mobilized millions worldwide to send aid and supplies to the Ukrainian people. From large NGOs and nonprofits to individuals compelled to make an impact, no matter how small, our global community has rallied in inspiring ways.
Lena Contor, an unsung Ukrainian hero from Idaho, has been hand-delivering Luci Lights one suitcase at a time over the last year. She is preparing her fifth trip to Ukraine to deliver lights and supplies and has no plans to stop there.
The following is a message from Judy McClanahan, a Pocatello, Idaho woman, sharing the incredible work of one determined local woman, Lena Contor.
Guest Author: Judy McClanahan of Pocatello, ID
"When the war began almost a year ago, Lena was married and living happily in Pocatello, Idaho, visiting her mother, still in Ukraine, yearly. Lena made two trips to Ukraine and was fortunate to be able to bring her mother back to the United States. While Lena was there, she realized first-hand the devastation and critical personal needs of the millions of families who were fleeing from Ukraine to Poland. When she came home, she immediately went to work planning, organizing, and facilitating fundraisers to collect clothing for the families who were fleeing the war-torn country.
She raised money to collect critically needed medical supplies that were quickly being depleted in Ukraine; raised money to help purchase suitcases for the refugees as they came to Poland with all of their worldly possessions on their bodies and being carried in small trash bags, so they would have something to carry those possessions in and to help them with food and temporary housing. She was able to raise thousands of dollars mostly by cooking borscht and pierogies in her home kitchen, foods that she grew up on in Ukraine, so the people in Pocatello could sample and subsequently support her in raising funds to return to Poland for a third time.
However, after coming home from that third working trip and witnessing things the refugees desperately needed, she held more fundraisers, spoke to groups of people, and worked daily to put funds together to help her make a fourth trip. During that fourth trip, she noticed that the Luci lights she had collected to take with her meant so much to the people still without electricity in Ukraine. Her heart broke for the families who are sheltering the homeless in the cold and dark and are literally afraid for their lives. They told her that being afraid in the dark was a lot harder than being afraid in the light. She knew a simple Luci light would provide them with so much comfort. Returning home from that fourth trip, Lena made it her mission through more fundraising to purchase as many of your Luci lights as she could. She reached out to you and asked if MPOWERD would be willing to reduce the cost because of what she was intending them for. Because MPOWERD said yes, because MPOWERD heard her pleas and allowed her to purchase the Luci lights for a lower price, she has been able to plan a fifth trip to deliver those Luci lights to the families in the dark in Ukraine.
It’s no small feat for Lena to take extra luggage and extra bags on the airplanes as she travels from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Kraków, Poland. She has to get permission from the airlines with each trip to transport many extra boxes of those Luci lights, and needless to say, she takes the largest boxes that she can and fills them tightly within the size and weight limit allowed and makes every inch and every ounce count in getting them to her final destination. She’s allowed only so many boxes, and when she has someone else going with her, she adds extra boxes to their luggage capacity as well … she does everything that she can to get whatever she needs to get to Ukraine there quickly and safely. This will be her fifth trip when she goes next week, and she’s already planning another trip in March.
Knowing how Lena cares, she will have more fundraisers to take the maximum amount of vital supplies. Lena Contor has become a household name in Pocatello, Idaho, and the surrounding area with what she is doing for the people of Ukraine, for the people from the country where she was born and raised. I’m just one person who has purchased a Luci light, but I wanted MPOWERD to know the impact you’re having on many families in Ukraine … thank you … thank you … thank you!"