The floral community is well-known for coming together to assist each other and doing what they can to help those in need. When Russia invaded Ukraine in late February 2022, Victoria Clausen of Victoria Clausen Floral Events and Floral Fêtes in Lutherville-Timonium, Maryland, decided she needed to do what she could to help the community directly in Ukraine. And she had personal connections to help, too—“I am personally from Ukraine,” she shared with floriology. “My mom, my brother, immediate family, and extended family are still there, lots of really good friends, and when the war broke off…I just thought, ‘I need to do something.’”
Victoria started the #BloomsforUkraine tag on Instagram to tell her personal story and connection to Ukraine, as well as share information about how to donate through her personal contacts. Victoria also made and sold floral arrangements where a large portion of the proceeds raised went to her donation efforts.
Originally, Victoria thought she could use her platform to collect a few thousand dollars to help friends with their efforts in Ukraine and assist those who could be evacuated—the response exceeded her expectations. “There was such an incredible response,” she said. “That first week, we collected $40,000 between donations that came to my Venmo account and the #BloomsforUkraine sales—we don’t have a nonprofit or anything like that. It’s just through my personal contacts that we’re doing this work because that allows us to be extremely flexible and get the money delivered quickly where needed and make decisions about how to use it the best way possible.”
To help raise money, Victoria began selling “blue and yellow bunches at the store to also raise money. Eighty percent of the profit from those bunches went toward efforts. And, on top of that, we’ve been donating 15 percent of the overall store sales towards Ukraine. Between all those initiatives, just through the store, we were able to raise about $57,000. But, when that’s combined with other contributions and donations from those who have been helping us, we’re close to $110,000 that’s been raised for Ukrainian efforts.”
One of those who helped Victoria reach this donation milestone is Rachel Gang, owner of Helen Olivia Flowers in Washington, D.C. Rachel became involved in #BloomsforUkraine when she posted a yellow and blue floral arrangement on Instagram. A wedding planner who was aware of Victoria’s efforts and who works with both Victoria and Rachel connected the two, “and we thought it was such a great idea,” Rachel said. “So, we decided to offer an arrangement on our website that folks could order and 100 percent of the proceeds from the arrangements would then turn around and go to her efforts.”
Rachel shared that they received “an overwhelming response. Our clients were incredible in ordering and sending our arrangements.” For arrangement details, Rachel and her team used mixes of “daffodils, hyacinths, garden rose, ranunculus,” and more in yellow and blue colors. “We took off with such speed that our wholesalers were scrambling to get yellow and blue product.”
Although the sunflower is the official flower of Ukraine—and a big seller during the summer and fall months—Victoria decided to make her arrangements to purchase for donation during the springtime with “a variety of blue and yellow flowers that represent the Ukrainian flag.” Victoria wanted her arrangements to represent the colors of the country and to give people a reminder of peace and Ukraine’s beauty.
To remain transparent to donors, Victoria knows precisely what the money is being used for. For example, on an Instagram post, she shared that $15,500 funded three AWD vans serving as field ambulances; $8,000 funded a van for refugee/supply transportation; $6,500 for an SUV turned field ambulance; $5,000 for hotel assistance; $9,200 to aid new and expectant mothers; $3,600 for medical supplies; $1,000 for Ukrainian media support; and more.
Originally, Victoria thought she could use her platform to collect a few thousand dollars to help friends with their efforts in Ukraine and assist those who could be evacuated—the response exceeded her expectations.
Victoria noted that at first, donations were coming in quickly, but now, they have dwindled. She attributes this to slowing media attention on the war, as well as her bandwidth—being able to support her business while also trying to raise money for those in Ukraine. However, she remains “overwhelmed” by the support from the industry and those who support the floral community, along with those who share their stories with her from the ground in Ukraine.
As the weather turns colder, Victoria will be partnering with a Seattle-based non-profit to start a Building Hope Foundation to help Ukrainians survive and rebuild. Victoria and Rachel also plan to continue fundraising as much as possible for Ukraine relief efforts and other causes they feel passionate about.
BloomNet serves to gather stories and connect people with resources to educate and share with our readers. More information can be found on Victoria’s Instagram pages (@victoriaclausenflorals and @floralfetes) and Rachel’s Instagram (@helenoliviaflowers).