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Local coffee shop fundraises for a loyal Ukrainian customer

A local coffee shop in Centerton is looking to help Ukrainian refugees one cup of cold brew at a time.

CENTERTON, Ark. — As we continue to watch the Ukraine conflict escalate, many here in the U.S. are watching anxiously wondering if their families and friends will make it out safely. 

Sergey is a local Ukrainian immigrant who can relate to the heavy burden of watching his family in the middle of turmoil thousands of miles away. He didn’t want to reveal his full identity, but a friend of his was able to speak to his character and situation. 

According to The Wicked Bean’s owner and dear friend to Sergey, Katherine Smith, he first came to the United States in high school as an exchange student. He fell in love with Northwest Arkansas, so he came back after a short stint back home in Ukraine.

“He went back home and then ended up coming back and got citizenship,” Katherine, one of the owners of The Wicked Bean said.

On his return to the U.S., Sergey met Katherine at The Wicked Bean, and she says he became not only one of their most loyal customers but also a friend. So loyal, the Smiths decided to name a drink after him.

“It’s called the Crazy Ukrainian,” Katherine said.

The drink is a caramel frappe, with whipped cream and a burst of sweetness, much like Katherine described Sergey as. She added when he returned to the U.S. he left his family behind in Ukraine.

When the conflict broke out between Russia and Ukraine, the Smiths discovered Sergey’s family recently escaped the Capitol city, Kyiv. They wanted to help the family rebuild after leaving everything they owned in Kyiv, so they returned the same loyalty Sergey showed them. The Wicked Bean turned the "Crazy Ukrainian" into a fundraiser. The Smiths say it was important to step in and lend a hand.

“It’s a humanitarian crisis, you know you never like to see something like this going on, but you know because we know this story you know and they’re close to us we just compelled to or we just wanted to do something,” Katherine said.

20% of each "Crazy Ukrainian" purchase is going to Sergey’s family in Ukraine. After just five days of fundraising, The Wicked Bean sold 167 drinks.

“We honestly thought you we’d raise maybe $500. We had no idea that it was gonna be this huge. I mean it’s amazing,” Katherine said.

The shop owners say even the Centerton Mayor has joined in to challenge people to meet the goal of $1,000 by the end of March.

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