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Billings Ukraine fundraiser sees packed house at Craft Local on Sunday

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Posted at 9:52 AM, Apr 25, 2022

BILLINGS - The house was packed inside Craft Local in Billings on Sunday, as people gathered for a night of art and music to benefit the country of Ukraine.

A total of five local music groups and one dance group took the stage for performances at the event organized by members of Yellowstone Repertory Theater.

The group's artistic director, Craig Huisenga, had no problem finding artists.

"It was almost unanimously that people wrote back and said, 'Whatever you want. Count me in. I was wondering if someone was going to do this.' It was amazing to me that everybody said yes," Huisenga said.

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Craig Huisenga, artistic director for Yellowstone Repertory Theatre in Billings.

"To me, it was really great and it shows me that this is a bigger thing than just Ukraine. I think people are tuning into it because of the tensions all over the world," Huisenga added.

Huisenga said the event already raised about $1,000 before the doors even opened with online ticket sales, and donated art work for a silent auction should add to that total.

Another place to donate was at Oxana Gamba's traditional Ukrainian food table.

"This is for donations of Ukrainian refugees," Gamba told some people approaching her table.

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Oxana Gamba speaks with MTN News while giving out traditional Ukrainian food to people for donations at Craft Local in Billings.

Gamba is originally from Ukraine, but now lives in Billings.

She said events like this one are important to keep the atrocities of Russia's war in Ukraine top of mind for people who aren't living there.

"This is insanity and I appreciate that people still remember. We have to remind ourselves and everyone around that this is still happening. This is not somewhere far, far away. This is happening in Ukraine and those are real people and real children," Gamba said.

The money raised at the event will be donated to Direct Relief, one of four organizations that achieved good ratings from the New York Times for efficiency and transparency.