Weekend concert will benefit Farmington group sponsoring four Ukrainian families

Event will feature performances by dozens of musicians, singers and dancers

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The "A New Generation of Hope" concert will be presented at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15 at the First Presbyterian Church of Farmington, 865 N. Dustin Ave.
  • Admission is $10 at the door, and children are admitted free.
  • Anyone who wishes to donate to the Gordon Glass Support Circle can drop off a donation at the First Presbyterian Church.

FARMINGTON — The Showcase on Dustin benefit concert series has been part of the Farmington music scene for many years, offering residents a chance to support a philanthropic organization while they enjoy a performance by accomplished local or regional performers.

This weekend's installment of the series will be different, however, in that many of the performers will be people who will benefit from the money raised during the event.

The concert, which is being billed as "A New Generation of Hope" by organizers, will raise money for the Gordon Glass Sponsor Circle, a group of local residents that has joined forces to provide financial and other support for Ukrainian families that have fled their country because of the Russian invasion.

Clockwise from top left: Kate Demokhina, Tanya Smirnova,  Ivanna Demokhina and Bohdan Demokhina pose in front of a train during a family outing after they relocated to Farmington from their native Ukraine earlier this year.

'It gives me hope':Farmington group increasing support for local Ukrainian immigrants

Cynthia Rapp Sandu, a member of the sponsor circle, said the event will feature a number of singers and musicians from the ranks of those families, along with several well-established members of Farmington's musical community.

"Normally, we offer professional local or regional musicians, but this is much more geared toward local talent and Ukrainian talent to inspire this awareness that young people are being impacted by this," Rapp Sandu said.

The concert will feature dozens of performers spread out across several groups, including the choirs from Piedra Vista and Farmington high schools, Julia Thom and James Golden, students of Laura Argotsinger, Mann Dance Academy students and students of Tennille's Violin House. It also will feature a performance by Ukranian youngster Ivanna Demokhina, who will perform a song on piano while accompanied by local trumpet player Mick Hesse.

Other highlights will include a performance of the tune "Kalyna" by all the Ukranians in the concert, which Rapp Sandu said has become an unofficial anthem of Ukraine's war with Russia, and the song "Prayer for Ukraine," the event finale, during which the audience will be invited to sing along.

In all, the performance includes 17 musical or dance pieces, Rapp Sandu said.

Ukraine native Yana Shozda, 16, left, poses with Olena Erickson, a Ukrainian-American from Farmington who sponsored another Ukrainian family to come to the U.S.

Farmington's community of displaced Ukrainians now includes four families, all of whom arrived between May and August.

"They all have housing, and all of those houses have been furnished with donations," Rapp Sandu said. "It's been sort of miraculous how just the right kind of housing has come along at exactly the time we need it."

The members of all four families seem to be adapting to their new surroundings quickly, she said, noting that two of the Ukrainians already have found jobs, and two others have received government authorization that will allow them to work. One more of the Ukrainians is still in the process of seeking that authorization.

"If people have jobs and would be interested in hiring Ukrainian newcomers, some of them will be getting their work authorization soon," Rapp Sandu said.

The other significant need for the Ukrainian families now is transportation, she said, explaining that if anyone has a car to donate, it would be greatly appreciated.

"It doesn't need to be new, as long as it's in good working order and reliable," she said.

The Ukrainian community in Farmington now consists of 16 people — four families that came here through the auspices of a Ukrainian rescue operation in Atlanta and a single Ukrainian woman who made her way to Farmington on her own.

"I think it's going pretty well, all things considered," Rapp Sandu said of the Ukrainians' transition to life in America. "Of course, when things happen in Ukraine, some days are more concerning to them than others."

The members of the Gordon Glass Sponsor Circle — which is named for a retired Farmington family counselor, community activist and outdoors enthusiast who died in January — have done their best to make the newcomers feel welcome by planning regular group events, including a large birthday party last weekend for all the local Ukrainians who were born in the fall.

Yana Shozda, left, her mother Luda Shozda and Martia Glass, a Gordon Glass Sponsor Circle co-coordinator, pose for a photo during a Sept. 17 potluck dinner featuring Ukrainian families that have resettled in Farmington.

Rapp Sandu said a representative of the Atlanta rescue group that is organizing the placement of Ukrainian families in America told her that the Farmington experience has become a model for the resettlement of Ukrainians in this country.

"The fact that we have taken in more than one family and the way the community has come together," Rapp Sandu said, recounting the factors that have made Farmington's response noteworthy.

Rapp Sandu said some of the local Ukrainians also have related to her that they have heard from other Ukrainians who have resettled in the United States that their experience has not been so positive.

"We've heard they don't have the same resources that Farmington has provided to them," Rapp Sandu said.

The members of the sponsor circle have taken on the role of legal financial sponsor for the families, meaning they have pledged to support them financially for two years.

But Rapp Sandu said the relationship that members of the circle have developed with the Ukrainians is far from being one sided. In her case, she said, her involvement with the Ukrainians has allowed her to feel a sense of community again that largely was eliminated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's nice coming out of the last couple of years when there was so much separation and people not working together," she said. "This has been an opportunity for people to come together. Our initial reason to do this was to help Ukrainians, but I think it helps Farmington."

The "A New Generation of Hope" concert will be presented at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15 at the First Presbyterian Church of Farmington, 865 N. Dustin Ave. Admission is $10 at the door, and children are admitted free.

Anyone who wishes to donate to the Gordon Glass Support Circle can drop off a donation at the First Presbyterian Church, Rapp Sandu said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.