Inspired by a friend’s philanthropic effort in Texas, two Falls Church residents have started their own fundraising campaign to help out during the pandemic, raising money by selling Little City-themed t-shirts.
After barely a week in operation, more than 700 shirts have been sold and more than $12,000 has been raised to help support local businesses and feed families in need.
Adena Williams was scrolling through Facebook when she saw a post from a high school friend about a campaign she started to support local businesses by selling a t-shirt with “In this together” emblazoned on it. Williams called her up to ask how the Texas-based movement gained steam nationally.
Upon learning the details of the campaign’s model, which they loved, Williams and co-organizer Suzanne Hladky decided to make a spin-off of the shirt, tailored to the City of Falls Church’s own sense of community. So they changed the slogan to “We are better together. We are the Little City,” bookending a bright, bold “Falls Church” in the center of a dark grey heather shirt.
Their ambitious idea aimed to satisfy three different parts of the City ecosystem.
Donors would purchase a shirt for $28, which would help fund a mass purchase of gift cards at local restaurants. The gift cards would then be distributed to either the City’s Housing and Human Services Department, the Falls Church Education Foundation’s Family Assistance Fund or the nonprofit, Food for Others and would be passed on to the families in need.
Neither Williams nor Hladky were sure what to expect from the community response to their fundraiser, with Williams admitting they set modest goals of taking in $50. However, they were quickly reminded about the City’s neighborly spirit once the word got out.
“We’ve been so blown away by the generosity of the community,” Williams said. “One of the nice things about Falls Church City is it’s super small and able to make impactful change quickly.”
As of Wednesday — just five days in operation — more than 700 adult and youth shirts have been sold and over $12,000 has been raised.
Getting the campaign up and running was fairly seamless, according to Williams. Her husband, Brian, is the co-founder of Falls Church-based marketing firm Viget and helped put some professional polish on their initial designs.
Later this week once the campaign receives its first check from Bonfire, the website where its t-shirts can be purchased, it will go and purchase gift cards from restaurants such as Sweet Rice, Clare and Don’s Beach Shack, Dog-wood Tavern and Plaka Grill, to name just a few. Williams said that those that don’t offer gift cards for sale will instead offer family meal deals, such as a meal for four for $50, so they can still reap some benefits from the effort.
Friends in the Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School Parent-Teacher Association helped connect them with City officials in the Housing and Human Services Department and at FCEF about the goal of the campaign, who quickly jumped at the opportunity to lend a hand.
Regan Davis, a part time worker at Food for Others and a friend of Williams and Hladky, welcomed the idea that the campaign would help out the nonprofit since food donations have become scarce due to a struggle to secure groceries.
Families turning to Food for Others for assistance have jumped since the pandemic and its corresponding effects on the economy have taken hold. What was one once an average of 100 people during the Wednesday and Friday distribution dates at Ellison Street in the City and Hollywood Avenue just outside of it has grown to 300 people that are in need of help during the crisis.
Being able to buy a shirt and know it’s going toward a good cause has quelled some of the anxiety of the more fortunate members of the community about not being sure how to support their neighbors.
“People really want to help during this time period, and right now, they feel a little bit helpless,” Davis said. That help, he said, could be as simple as buying a t-shirt to support a nonprofit.
Falls Church “Better Together” shirts are available in both adult and youth sizes and can be purchased at bonfire.com/falls-church-better-together-t-shirts-1.