ESQUIMALT (NEWS 1130) — Like many in B.C., Joanna Witham and her neighbours were glued to the daily briefings from the province’s top doctor as the COVID-19 pandemic hit B.C, and they were reassured by Dr. Bonnie Henry’s “calm, compassionate, and intellectual” leadership.
“When the pandemic hit and everyone was social distancing we would have socially distanced hangouts with our neighbours. We would just sit on the lawn and we would just talk about how great we thought Dr. Henry was,” Witham explains.
“We really found comfort watching those press conferences every day.”
So they decided to design a shirt and sell it to family, friends, and fellow fans of the public health official.
Any money they made would go to Rainbow Kitchen, a local non-profit that gives out meals to anyone who needs them–no questions asked.
“We thought we would sell 40 or 50 shirts to the people closest to us, and it kind of went beyond what we could have ever imagined,” she says.
Thanks to some attention from local media, they started getting about 600 orders per week in April.
“Once we were allowed to kind of expand our bubble, it worked out perfectly. Friday nights we would pick up our 600 shirts and we would process orders fro six or seven hours,” she explains.
Saturday mornings, orders would be shipped or picked up.
In two months they raised $20,000, which is enough to cover the operations of Rainbow Kitchen for a full month.
Now, Rainbow Kitchen has taken over the fundraiser.
“They’re passing the torch to us,” says Patrick Johnstone, the kitchen’s director.
He explains demand, and operating costs went up when the pandemic hit.
Before COVID-19, meals were served buffet style, but in March they had to move to a take-out system in order to stay up and running. So containers and packaging had to be added to the budget.
“We are a charity that relies solely on donations of in-kind vegetables, and fruit and protein as well as folks in the community who think about us and donate monetary. We’re not government funded, we’re independent,” he says.
“We started to see donations coming in in interesting ways, and this is a very unique, artistic opportunity that we’re the benefactors of with this T-shirt fundraiser.”
The T-shirts can be ordered online, and a new design has been added featuring Henry’s signature phrase, “Be kind, be calm, be safe.”