Diner fundraiser to support local man’s efforts to help Ukraine | SteamboatToday.com

Diner fundraiser to support local man’s efforts to help Ukraine

A community fundraiser from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at Johnny B. Good’s diner in downtown Steamboat Springs will help to fund trauma first aid kits, as well as field defibrillators for military personnel and refugees in need in Ukraine.
Ed Quinn/Courtesy photo

Routt County residents continue to volunteer and donate to support those in need in Ukraine, and a fundraiser is set for 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at Johnny B. Good’s Diner in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Diner co-owner Kathy Diemer said proceeds from the day’s sales will be donated to support Steamboat Springs resident Mark Kovach with fundraising efforts to purchase two items in great demand in Ukraine — field defibrillator machines and trauma first aid kits.

Kovach is back at home after spending weeks volunteering and helping fund emergency supply and equipment requests in towns along the border of Poland and Ukraine. He plans to travel back overseas with supplies in early May and to make a longer trip in June.

“(Kovach) is an amazing man whom I am so proud to call my Steamboat neighbor,” Diemer said. “His passion for helping the people of Ukraine is infectious, and Johnny B’s has definitely caught the bug.”

The Sunday fundraiser is being coordinated by diner co-owner Mike Diemer, and some diner staff are voluntarily donating their labor that day.

“As Mark told Mike the stories of the children of the Ukraine who he has been able to help with the donations coming from Steamboat and elsewhere, the hook was set,” Kathy Diemer said.

In addition to donating proceeds from eat-in and take-out food sales Sunday, the diner has an online donation option at Johnnybgoodsdiner.com by scrolling down under the “Online Ordering” tab to the ”Donations” link. The owners said 100% of online donations will go to the relief effort.

“It is Mike and Kathy’s moral fiber to be involved in community,” Kovach said. “Mike and I have something in common in that we are both at a time in life where we’ve got the ability to have some real impact.”

Kovach said his efforts in Ukraine have included distributing comfort kits with snacks, small toys and notes from Steamboat school students, as well as donating funds to purchase a Jeep and medical trailer that is being used in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. He also helped fulfill needs as they developed in the border towns, from buying rain ponchos to fruit squeezes.

He is an official volunteer with the nonprofit World Central Kitchen and Nashville-based Aerial Recovery Group and is networking with small volunteer groups. He said Boulder resident and friend Jackie Cuyler helped him in Poland too by delivering a first order of trauma first aid kits.

In the border towns, Kovach has done everything from manning 12-hour volunteer shifts to coordinating transportation efforts, sponsoring a refugee family and supporting group’s efforts to assist Ukrainian orphans.

“I’m having to be able to be extremely nimble,” said Kovach, an entrepreneur and U.S. Navy veteran.

Kovach said government agencies and large nonprofit entities are playing a large role in Ukraine, but small groups of volunteers are able to respond more quickly to emergency supply needs, such as one day he fulfilled a shopping list for diapers, baby formula and medicines for ARG driving into Ukraine to help orphans.

“I’ve never worked so hard in my life,” Kovach said. “My focus is on the people, not the war.”

Kovach said interested individuals have supported the local effort with almost $100,000 in donations so far, and roughly half of that has come from Routt County residents.

“People like seeing their donated dollars having direct impact and not getting clogged up in a bureaucratic process,” Kovach said. “We are distributing funds and supplies directly to refugees and through individual volunteers and small organizations that have just recently been formed in Poland and Ukraine.”

Steamboat Springs resident Mark Kovach, left, and Boulder resident Jackie Cuyler take a break while volunteering at a Polish-Ukrainian border town earlier this month.
Ed Quinn/Courtesy photo

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.