For Jessica Alkana, the phrase "think globally, act locally" is not only a concept she can get behind, but rather a way of life.
Last February, she began working in her spare time with Village Artisan, a fair-trade company. The young communications expert discovered Village Artisan has a program in India that helps send artisans' children to school.
She decided to team up with a friend of hers, Jess Koroscil, a talented local freelance graphic designer she met while working at a marketing agency years prior. They created funky "Knowledge is Power" T-shirts that raised enough money to send eight children to school in the program for a whole year.
Alkana then began to wonder, "Why can't we do the same for local charities here in Winnipeg?"
"I think that wherever you live, you have to be invested in your community," says Alkana.
Thus was born the Give T-shirt Company, a collaboration between Alkana and Koroscil to create beautiful T-shirts that support local non-profit organizations.
The first Winnipeg-based charity to work with the Give T-shirt Company was the West Broadway Youth Outreach program. Alkana and Koroscil worked with the organization to create a unique design and shirt that reflected both the organization's mission as well as a broader message.
Koroscil says in meeting with the West Broadway Youth Outreach organization and perusing their materials and website, she was able to create a striking design incorporating the grid map of the West Broadway area, the signature colour of the organization, yellow, and the message "We are Here."
"I think there is a real drought when it comes to thoughtful, nice-looking shirts with positive social messaging," says Koroscil, who specialized in creating T-shirt designs while in university. "When Jessica approached me about starting Give T-shirts, I thought it would be way cool if we could do what we had already done globally on a local level."
The shirts are hand-silkscreened and sold in limited quantities at businesses such as McNally Robinson, Hunter and Gunn Barbershop and the Tara Davis studio, as well as on the Give T-shirt Company website.
"It's a way for people to support different organizations in their community through the purchase of apparel," says Alkana. "People get a nice shirt and they get to spread the word about the great work of organizations in Winnipeg."
Six dollars from every adult shirt sold, and $4 for every children's shirt sold, goes to the West Broadway Youth Outreach program. The rest goes toward the costs of renting studio space to do the silkscreening, as well as the materials, which include water-based inks and sweatshop-free garments.
"It's something I'm really passionate about," says Alkana. "There are good things happening in our community, that have positive impacts, so it's nice to be a small part of something bigger."
Their next project? T-shirts in support of Mount Carmel Clinic's Mothering Program, a new program to support expectant women and mothers who struggle with addictions. These shirts should be out in late January.
"We're hoping to get people excited about these unique shirts and to bring about awareness," says Alkana.
To learn more about the Give T-shirt Company or to purchase a T-shirt, you can visit their website www.givetee.com .
If you know a special volunteer who strives to make his or her community a better place to live, please contact Carolyn Shimmin-Bazak at firstname.lastname@example.org .