Julie and Greg Veilleux hold a Ukraine yard sign outside their shop on Main Street. ISLANDER PHOTO BY VICTORIA DECOSTER

Local business, artist help raise funds to support refugees

BAR HARBOR — When the war in Ukraine first broke out, artist and musician Juliane Gardner knew she had to do something about it. By channeling her raw emotions into artwork, she created more than just a painting to help those most affected by the crisis – she created a fundraising opportunity. 

Now local business owners, Greg and Julie Veilleux of Window Panes, are joining forces in collaboration with Gardner. At their shop on 166 Main St., shoppers can purchase $20 yard signs in support of Ukraine, with proceeds going to World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit providing hot meals for refugees crossing the Poland border. 

“We’re kind of all in this together,” said Julie. “We should be helping our neighbors, and whether they’re in a different country or literally over the Trenton bridge, let’s do what we can to support each other and raise awareness.” 

An oil painter and musician hailing from Castine, Gardner’s design centers the earth in the middle of a yellow sunflower. In front of a blue backdrop a simple message, “I stand with Ukraine” reads across the sign. 

“The sunflower petals represent for me the courage and strength of the spirit of the Ukrainian people,” said Gardner. “The earth represents the global support that people are getting together to do whatever they can in big and small ways.”  

Julie first spotted a yard sign in the window of Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop on an evening walk around town in mid-April. 

She called the shop hoping to get her hands on some ahead of an in-store event where half the proceeds made during Mother’s Day weekend at Window Panes would go to World Central Kitchen’s Ukraine response, coincidentally the same charity Gardner’s funds were going toward. 

According to Julie, Gardner was overjoyed to have found a Bar Harbor business to bolster her efforts. 

“I think Juliane was looking for a community-based business that supported their community,” Greg said. “To be able to think that you’re capable of helping Ukrainians eat is the most simple act, and it’s not a very simple act for them right now.”  

Gardner has also partnered with Bonfire.com, a custom apparel company, to sell shirts, sweatshirts and tote bags with the same design. All profits made from those sales will go to a Heart to Heart International foundation, a healthcare nonprofit organization providing medical services to Ukrainians. 

For the last few months, Gardner has driven around her town and surrounding areas, either to drop off signs or to get to gigs with her husband. Every week she notices more businesses and homes with her signs in their front lawn or windows. 

“I think seeing the response to people wanting to help out and purchase them and display them has given me sort of renewed hope in the goodness of people and the goodness that people innately have to want to help others,” Gardner said. 

To date, Window Panes has sold 29 yard signs, but they’re hoping to double that number. 

“We are really one nation when you think of the people that are here in our communities,” Julie said. “We have Ukrainians that are working on our island and working in businesses here. Why shouldn’t we help and support them in some means, some way?”  

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