Founders of Restore the Shore t-Shirt campaign overwhelmed by response

In a small white house on a Collingswood sidestreet, an impressive fundraising effort is underway for the American Red Cross in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Collingswood residents Jen Hilgenberg and Mindy Leher have only been selling t-shirts through their online store, Red Dog Glass, for six or seven months, said Hilgenberg, but when they saw the devastation at the Jersey Shore, “We wanted to help. We had tons of friends who were affected.”

Leher, a graphic designer, created a “Restore the Shore” logo complete with the iconic “Jersey Strong” motto to sell through their store with all profits going to the American Red Cross.They thought they would sell a couple hundred shirts but when they shared the t-shirt via their Facebook page, it “blew up,” Hilgenberg said.

Many of the customers have been individuals, but a number of groups are also helping the fundraising effort. The coach and girls soccer team at Chestnut Hill College wanted to do something to get involved as well, said Hilgenberg.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

One of the players is from the Jersey shore and she contacted Red Dog Glass about helping to raise money through their shirt fundraiser. The Chestnut Hill team thought about buying the shirts and then selling them, but they were worried about who would front the money and how to keep inventory, said Hilgenberg. Instead, the team has been hosting tables, handing out fliers and sharing the word through email and social media.

Red Dog Glass will ship the orders in bulk to their partners at Chestnut Hill College so they can be distributed. That will also save on shipping costs, meaning more money will go to the American Red Cross.

Hilgenberg and Leher are able to track how much is raised by Chestnut Hill students through their website. So far, they have sold over 100 shirts and raised well over $1,000, said Hilgenberg.The Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr is also raising money the same way. If each student sells two shirts, they will be rewarded with a dress down day.

Leher said this is the biggest thing they have done. Normal orders are a few hundred shirts, so it has been a little “overwhelming to field all this.” To meet the increased volume, over 20 people have volunteered to help pack and ship the orders.

They are also currently talking with a local store owner about possibly using a vacant site to distribute some of the shirts.

To date, Leher and Hilgenberg have sold approximately 1,250 shirts and raised $19,640 for the American Red Cross.

Both agreed the response has been humbling. People from all over – as far as Texas and the Virgin Islands – have sent little notes of encouragement along with their orders. They have also received a few other bulk orders.

Hilgenberg thinks part of the success is because “people can donate but they get something back,” and then they can “show their pride and support by wearing the t-shirt.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal