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Lincoln business sets up hotel room fundraiser for displaced Ukrainians

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Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees crowd the streets of Warsaw, Poland, stepping off border-crossing trains and into the unknown.

City stations are campgrounds. Makeshift shelters have sprung up everywhere, and housing droves of incoming Ukrainians who are fleeing Russia's invasion is proving to be a massive task for the city.

After weeks of reading the headlines, it became too hard for former Husker football player Steve Glenn to stand idly by.

His company, Executive Travel, coordinates travel for businesses and individuals, so Glenn figured he could use his hotel contacts in Poland to help.

After a series of conversations with Doug Evans, a friend and consultant for the project, Glenn had an idea: Why not buy hotel rooms for Ukrainians camping out in public spaces?

Steve Glenn

Glenn

So, on March 18, Glenn launched Operation Safe Harbor. Calling on the community for donations, Glenn’s company hopes to book 50 Warsaw hotel rooms, which will house 200 Ukrainians starting April 1.

The monthly cost for the project is $85,000.

Glenn said he knows 50 rooms is a drop in the bucket, but if people donate more at the project’s landing page, www.operationsafeharborukraine.com, that number could grow.

“We can’t solve everything, but we can make 200 people have a safe harbor,” Glenn said. “We can … feed them, take care of them, have compassion, and show them America loves them.”

Glenn was able to coordinate the project after striking a deal with a Best Western in Warsaw. The hotel lowered room rates for refugee families to $50 a night and has also promised to provide complimentary breakfast and Wi-Fi, Glenn said.

Executive Travel also has promised to match a $25,000 donation. Glenn said 100% of the proceeds will go to relief efforts, and donations will be tax-deductible by partnering with Heartland Bible Church.

Many Nebraskans have wanted to help but haven’t known how, Glenn said. Now, he said, they have an opportunity to do so through a local avenue they can trust.

Glenn challenged businesses to contribute or even pledge to match donations.

“We live in one of the nicest towns in the world. Why can’t we share with Ukrainians?” Glenn said. “If we get enough people to donate, we can have a Lincoln hotel in Warsaw, where we proudly say, ‘We are with you, Ukraine.’”

But Glenn’s project isn’t limited to hotel rooms. Glenn hopes to send a team of employees, pastors and volunteers to Warsaw on Tuesday.

There, Glenn’s team will help locate needy families and — with the help of locals — coordinate transportation, food, medical assistance and other necessities for the refugees. Eventually, Glenn’s group wants to find them jobs or even help them get visas to Lincoln.

Brian Wallingford, who works for Glenn, will lead the efforts on the ground in Warsaw. He'll be greeted there by local Polish volunteers who have promised to help locate Ukrainian families in need.

Brian Wallingford

Wallingford

Wallingford said they'll be able to provide families with rooms. Wallingford and his team also will help Ukrainians find more permanent arrangements.

While the displacement process has been daunting for Ukrainian refugees, Wallingford said he has faith that Nebraskans will help.

"In Nebraska, everything we do is to help our neighbors," Wallingford said. "And with this conflict, we've realized that neighbors don't have to be in Nebraska.

"Our neighbors can be anywhere."

'She's part of our family' -- Lincoln connections helping Ukrainian student's mother find safety
UNL professor offers fellowships to displaced Ukrainian biochemists
Watch now: Dozens gather at Nebraska Capitol to rally for peace in Ukraine

Reach the writer at jthompson@journalstar.com

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News intern

Jenna Thompson is a news intern who has previous writing and editing experience with her college paper and several literary journals. She is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln pursuing degrees in English and journalism.

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