Merch line caters to immunized Mennonites

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This article was published 16/06/2021 (537 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you’re vaccinated and Mennonite and delighted to be both, Ryan Polinsky has just the shirt for you.

Polinsky, an art teacher at Steinbach Christian School, prints t-shirts in his spare time.

“It’s like a lemonade stand. It isn’t even a side gig,” he joked, with classic Mennonite modesty, in an interview last week.

JORDAN ROSS / THE CARILLON Art teacher Ryan Polinsky is the creator of the ‘Menno & Vaccinated’ merchandise line.

Two weeks ago, Polinsky created a line of merchandise—shirts, hats, aprons, coffee mugs, stickers, buttons—emblazoned with the phrase, ‘Menno & Vaccinated.’ By Tuesday, more than three dozen orders had poured in.

It all started with a May 25 Facebook post written by Polinsky’s wife’s cousin, Ramona Wiebe. The post linked to a news article about sluggish rates of vaccine uptake in predominantly Mennonite communities in southern Manitoba.

Wiebe shared the story with a note saying she wished there was a t-shirt that proclaimed the wearer Mennonite and vaccinated.

Polinsky read the article and noticed it referenced Cordella Friesen, an old classmate from his days at Bethany College in Saskatchewan.

Friesen, who was raised in Niverville, is an assistant deputy minister for Manitoba Conservation and Climate. Six months ago, she joined Manitoba’s COVID-19 vaccine task force and was placed in charge of faith community outreach.

Possessing both design skills and a website, Polinsky got to work fulfilling Wiebe’s wish. Within two days, he had designed the merch line and uploaded it to his website. He later moved it to a print-on-demand webstore. Before long, friends from across Canada were reaching out.

“It kind of just blossomed from there.”

Polinsky said the purpose of the merch line is threefold: to foster camaraderie during a difficult time; to support nurses and other frontline health-care workers in the thick of the pandemic; and to promote vaccines as the best way to end the pandemic.

“I think it’s actually breaking down the stigma that Mennonites are anti-science,” he added.

Polinsky, who is married to a nurse, said he was grateful to receive his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

“We can only do this one person at a time,” he said.

Polinsky said he knows people who are skeptical of vaccines and government messaging. He said he doesn’t expect a t-shirt to change someone’s mind but hopes the clothes prompt conversations with trusted friends and family members. It’s an organic method of reducing vaccine hesitancy that aligns with the province’s emphasis on community partnerships.

Members of the vaccine task force were quick to praise the project. Friesen shared a photo of her wearing one of the shirts. During a briefing last Wednesday, Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the vaccine task force, thanked Polinsky for creating the clothing.

“They are creating a sense of community connection to vaccination amongst Mennonite Manitobans,” Reimer said.

“I’m proud and excited that I could do my part in just bringing us back to normal,” Polinsky said.

To check out the full line of merch, visit shop.spreadshirt.ca/mennoandvaccinated.

 

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