RICHMOND,Va. -- In an effort to help those facing food insecurity during the pandemic, two Virginia women came together with an idea.
Katie Gaylord lives in Williamsburg and reached out to Leah Lubeski in Richmond in hopes of creating a t-shirt to bring some joy during this time to her family.
"I reached out to her originally when I was feeling more hopeless in regards to how to help," Gaylord. said. "Especially for our families in need in our surrounding community."
Lubeski, who works for Custom Ink in Carytown, said that is when she realized the idea could have a positive impact on others.
"In hard times people are kind and want to help others... And I was like, 'Katie, we might be able to get people wanting to order these shirts. Have you thought about maybe doing some sort of fundraiser?'"
Within 24 hours the pair created a design and launched, Virginia Is for kindness. They raised more than $7,000 and provided more than 28,000 meals for the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank.
The two women said that even though the funds went to one food bank, they have gotten responses from all over sharing how they plan to help those in their own communities.
"Katie and I really did think, you know even though the food bank is more specifically in her area, that people want to do good right now," Lubeski said. "And if it's helping someone in need, they probably wouldn't be held back by the fact that it might not be helping their exact community."
Virginia's food banks have so far seen a 40% increase in demand. With some pantries serving twice as many people each week.
"The number of people who turn to Virginia’s seven food banks will set records through the June-December 2020 peak demand period," said Katie Mandes with the Federation of Virginia Food Banks.
Tim McDermott with Feed More in Richmond said the demand for food insecurity has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The first place that we saw it most dramatically was calls to our hunger hotline. Which typically averaged about 25 pre day. And very very quickly in march it ramped up to about a hundred calls a day," said McDermott, Feed More's Chief Development Officer.
In Central Virginia alone, Feed More has seen at least a 25 percent increase in demand. McDermott said they are able to help those people because of fundraisers like Virginia Is for Kindness.
"It's been a humbling experience to me personally, and to many of those colleagues of mine... at Feed More, to really see this kind of outpouring of support and genuine care for their neighbors who are in need," McDermott said.
More than 600 orders have come in for the t-shirts. Their original goal was to sell 50 shirts.
"It's a really easy time I think to become selfish," Lubeski said. "And I think this shows that there are a lot of selfless people still in the world who are willing to help."
The Virginia Is for Kindness campaign has launched round two of the fundraiser and will be donating all the proceeds to another food bank.
Gaylord and Lubeski said that if orders keep coming in, they will be able to help even more food banks in our state.
Click here for more information or to get a t-shirt. And be sure to use the hashtag #vaisforkindness on social media.