By Roxanne Steward firstname.lastname@example.org
ST. AUGUSTINE – Through the recovery-stage of Hurricane Matthew, many residents have expressed how encouraged they were with they way the community pulled together to help those in need. One of the ways hurricane recovery has been funded is through the donation of merchandise proceeds.
“We’ve been doing tons of runs to the post office. They do not like us there because I come in with literally like 100 T-shirts.” Tara Ferreira owns a clothing boutique in uptown St. Augustine called Magnolia Supply Co.
Tara and her co-business owner Bri West wanted to do something after the hurricane to give back to the community. “So many people out of state we’re like, ‘How can I help? Can I ship supplies to you guys or something?’ So that’s when we started thinking, ‘Let’s do something you can order online,’” Ferreira explained. Overall, they feel as if their efforts have been worth it, especially with the help of social media. She expressed, “It’s really cool how social media is really helping this to take off.”
At first, they considered donating a percentage of sales on a certain day, but ultimately they decided that more money would be raised if they chose a particular product. According to Ferreira, $1,500 has been raised so far, after the cost of printing. But none of the money stays in their pocket. In fact, the money is split between two places, the St. Augustine Rotary Club and the St. Francis House.
When choosing where to donate, Ferreira consulted City Commissioner Todd Neville, a friend of hers, because “a lot of organizations, if you don’t specify where you want your money to go to, it will go to just the generic umbrella fund.”
The money donated to the St. Augustine Rotary Club will go to storm victims in Davis Shores and the money donated to the St. Francis Shelter, will go to rebuilding.
While Magnolia Supply Co. has reached out to the community as an organization, Kiara Sanchez has been able to help on the individual level, with her design “St. Augustine Doodle.” The locally-famous doodle has swept across Facebook on people’s cover photos, been sold on t-shirts, and has almost become a symbol for St. Augustine’s hurricane recovery effort.
“The doodle itself represents all the different parts of town I love,” says Sanchez, who displays her art on a website called Kiartist. “I was really emotional by everything, so I just took out my iPad and started doodling and posted it to Instagram. I took a nap and when I woke up it had started going viral I couldn’t believe it.”
Eventually people wanted to purchase the doodle and Sanchez saw the opportunity to help with the hurricane recovery effort but didn’t want to keep any of the money for herself. A week and a half after the hurricane, her prints were up and for sale.
“It took me a while to figure everything out but luckily two of my best friends help me set everything up and keep it organized,” Sanchez said.
She was even able to get the printing for free because Mosaic Jax, where she works, offered to print it for free. Over just a few weeks, Sanchez has been able to raise $3,000, which she chose to donate to the St. Francis House.
“We live in a very giving community,” said Judith Dembowski, a leader at the St. Francis House. When Matthew hit, all three of their buildings were destroyed, along with their food pantry and all the food in it. Now, less than a month later, all of that food has been replenished due to donations. “You can’t do anything if you’re hungry,” Dembowski said.
Of course, the food they have collected is not yet able to be stored at shelter because of the rebuilding process. They estimate three to six months before they are fully operational again, but their third floor will re-open soon for emergency service. The Third Floor alone will house 24 beds, 10 families, and 24 over-flow beds. This will give a home again to the many families that were forced onto the streets when the shelter closed. Dembowski said about the situation, “We live in such a prosperous county that people don’t realize people are making choices everyday between food and medicine.” Dembowski hopes to help make that decision less dire again with the new shelter, thanks to both the material and monetary donations of the community.