While both businesses and people’s incomes have been undermined by the COVID-19 shutdown, Brookline citizens have stepped up to help those in need.
One such effort is the Strength in Distance fundraiser organized by a group of high school students who are selling a shirt to raise money for the Brookline Food Pantry. The project also funds local printmaker QRST’s Screenprinting and Embroidery, which manufactures the shirts.
According to senior Grace Sokolow, who helped organize the fundraiser, planning began shortly after school was shut down on March 12. Sokolow also said that the quarantine made community outreach a daunting concept.
“The biggest unknown for us when we started was, what was the community response going to be like, and how can we really get the word out to people other than just our personal networks of people?” Sokolow said. “We really wanted this to spread throughout the community, and I would say it’s going really well. People are responding positively, and we’re slowly but surely getting the word out there, and I think that is really awesome.”
Sokolow said cash donations are more efficient for the food pantry than food donations because the food pantry gets a bulk discount price from the food bank.
“A dollar that they spend goes a lot farther than a dollar that you or I might spend at the grocery store to donate goods,” Sokolow said.
In addition to its benefits to the food pantry, the fundraiser also supports QRST’s Screenprinting and Embroidery. According to owner Peter Rinnig, COVID-19 has posed a challenge for QRST’s.
“We’ve been printing apparel and gear for Cambridge and Somerville, firefighters and police,” Rinnig said. “So we’ve been able to stay open, but it is a much reduced amount of work that we’re doing.”
Despite the loss of business, QRST’s decided to to print shirts for Strength in Distance at a much reduced price of $1 a piece.
“To be able to help out somebody who’s less fortunate is always a great thing,” Rinnig said.
The fundraiser has also had to adapt to the impossibility of in-person meetings. In an email to the Sagamore, senior Gigi Walsh explained that she and the other organizers have been communicating with emails and conference calls.
“To publicize to students and parents/guardians, we got in contact with school administrators who could publicize the fundraiser on platforms like Canvas, the weekly guidance update emails, and the PTO Blast,” Walsh wrote.
In addition to using the high school communication infrastructure to spread word about the fundraiser, the students used a number of outside resources to contact people around Brookline.
“Beyond the BHS community, we utilized other Brookline networks to get the word out,” Walsh wrote. “My neighborhood has an email chain that I posted to, job was able to post about the fundraiser on social media, and information about the fundraiser was put in the TAB.”
According to junior and Strength in Distance organizer Cora Skidmore, a number of people other than high school students have helped out with the fundraiser. According to Skidmore, Rena Sokolow helped design the T-shirts and contact QRST’s. In addition, junior Kat Lexa designed the website for the fundraiser. To reduce the cost of the fundraiser, clothing company Hanes has agreed to provide some shirts for free.
Skidmore said that purchasing a shirt is the best way to help the Strength in Distance fundraiser and support the Brookline community, but it’s not the only way to get involved.
“Donation is not the only way to get involved,” Walsh wrote, “A great way to support the fundraiser is to spread the word with an email to your family and friends or with a post on social media.”
According to the organization’s GoFundMe page, where people can pay for shirts or give excess donations, Strength in Distance has raised over $4700. According to Sokolow, the fundraiser had sold 115 shirts by April 13, and donations are still coming in.
“We have been really, really thankful and just amazed by the support we’ve gotten thus far,” Sokolow said. “We want people to know that we are still running this fundraiser and so it’s not too late to donate to get a shirt even after the fundraiser. And, the Brookline Food Pantry and the Brookline Community Foundation are always taking donations.”