Charlotte baker helps over 20 bakeries in Ukraine feed survivors

CHARLOTTE — The United States and Ukraine might not appear to have a lot in common, but a love of food — in this case, baking — can often transcend borders.

The owner of Manolo’s Bakery in east Charlotte told Channel 9′s Glenn Counts he was inspired to help those affected by the fighting happening in Ukraine.

Central Avenue is a long way from Ukraine — different time zones, different cultures. But Manolo Betancur is joining the fight in the only way he knows how.

Betancur knows a lot about baking — he’s operated his own store for 25 years.

But before becoming a baker, Betancur, who immigrated from Colombia, was in the Colombian Special Operations Forces and trained by U.S. marines. So when war broke out in Ukraine, he wanted to go and fight, but his family obligations made that impossible. Instead, he opted to help bakeries feed the Ukrainian people.

“God talks about bread, God doesn’t talk about beans or corn, He talks about bread because bread means life,” said Betancur.

Xatuhka Nekapr Bakery in Bucha was severely damaged by Russian troops and the equipment that wasn’t damaged was stolen.

Thanks to Manolo’s help, Xatuhka Nekapr Bakery is up and running again.

Betancur spearheaded a fundraising effort and sent an oven and money to Ukraine, and now Xatuhka Nekapr Bakery is able to deliver bread to survivors who need it.

“We are giving hope to Ukraine. We are giving food to Ukraine. We are feeding children, women and families, remember the men are in the fight so he’s taking care of the families,” Betancur said.

In total, Betancur is helping around 20 bakeries in Ukraine with the help of local churches.

“I have the opportunity to show how a small gesture can change lives around the whole world. I want to invite corporations and anyone who can share a dollar,” Betancur said.

Betancur says he came to this country with only $900 in his pocket and this is his way of showing his gratitude for how far he has come.

“If a small bakery on Central Avenue can do this, imagine the big corporations of the nation can do around the world you know we can change the world,” Betancur said.

(WATCH BELOW: South Carolina man among 2 Americans killed in Ukraine)