BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Baltimore-Odesa Sister City Committee has launched a major fundraising effort to collect $500,000 for Ukraine in just a week.

The fundraiser is a “sister city challenge” in partnership with Ukraine-based group Mission to Ukraine. The initiative started Wednesday, May 18, and runs through Wednesday, May 25.

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Last month, the organization partnered with the Cincinnati-Kharkiv Sister City Partnership to raise $250,000 in three days. The group is hoping Baltimore can match that effort, adjusted for population size.

Money is being raised to send humanitarian supplies, including medical supplies, protective gear and other equipment, across Ukraine and to Odesa, a city under siege.

CBS reports Russia has stepped up missile strikes in the vital port city this month.

“The urgency for this campaign cannot be understated as battles intensify daily and lives continue to be lost in Odesa and throughout Ukraine,” said Karina Mandell, Chair of the Baltimore-Odesa Sister City Committee. “My heart is with Odesa.”

Odesa Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov made an appeal to its sister city in a video message, describing heavy losses the city has sustained, including the deaths of children in the Russian onslaught.

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“This year marks 47 years since the signing of the Twinning Agreement between Odesa and Baltimore,” Trukhanov said. “It is almost 50 years of friendship, support and mutual assistance. Now, this support is more important to us than ever.”

Mission to Ukraine, founded by two friends from Cornell University, has roots in Baltimore. Co-founder Mark Kreynovich emigrated from Kharkiv to Baltimore in 1998 at 6-months old and graduated from Towson High School.

Kreynovich landed in Ukraine with his friend and co-founder Dillon Carroll ten days after Russia invaded the country, and they immediately began sourcing humanitarian supplies to distribute, according to the organization.

“Dillon and I are honored to carry out a direct aid effort for the people of Ukraine, particularly the people of Odesa – your sister city – on behalf of Greater Baltimoreans,” Kreynovich said. “As both a Baltimorean and Ukrainian myself, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Slava Ukraini.”

Making a Donation

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Those looking to contribute can make an immediate donation through Spotfund. Tax deductible donations can be made here.

CBS Baltimore Staff