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    What 26 Shirts Means To Me - Guest Post from Josiah LeRoy

    What 26 Shirts Means To Me - Guest Post from Josiah LeRoy

    I first met Del Reid in early 2017.

    I had been a fan of 26 Shirts since its inception a few years earlier and always adored what Del and the crew did. The Bills Mafia guy, making fun t-shirts, and raising a good deal of money every two weeks for charity and those who need it the most. What a concept. I was upset I didn’t think of it first!

    Having followed the famous Del Reid on Twitter (he has the blue check mark, he is famous!), I always enjoyed seeing what he had to say about 26, about the Bills, and about more personal things like faith and family.

    My company, The Geekiverse, was a sponsor of Buffalo Soup Fest in early 2017. While at our booth, my partner walked over to me and said “Did you know 26 Shirts is here? Del Reid wants to meet you.” Admittedly, I was pretty giddy. I walked over to the 26 table, introduced myself, and Del warmly said “I’m a big fan of your Star Wars coverage.” Are you kidding me?

    If you weren’t aware, The Geekiverse is pop culture media company that produces videos and podcasts focused on gaming, movies, and of course, Star Wars. If Del didn’t already have a fan for life, he sure did after that. Just when you think you can’t respect someone more, they reveal they’re actually a big geek. (He has often told me first and foremost, he’s really a Marvel and Star Wars guy, but the Bills content was more popular. Funny how that works, right?!).

    After meeting up a few more times over the following Summer for a few meals and beverages, we partnered up and got to be just a small slice of the new-at-the-time Fanteestic brand, a line of 26 Shirts focused on pop culture. A few years past that, we regrouped again but this time, to partner with my bank, BankOnBuffalo. BankOnBuffalo shares something in common with 26 Shirts: A deep love and passion for community. That means strengthening our local communities in WNY, looking out for those who really need us, and being a beacon of light and optimism wherever we can be. I mean look, we just went through nearly two decades of “The Drought.” If that isn’t optimism, I don’t know what is.

    I am the proud owner of close to 30 different 26 Shirts releases. I proudly wear my New Era 26 Flat Brim whenever I’m out of town. I tell everyone who will listen to me about how cool the shirts are, how amazing the company is, and how big the hearts of its employees are.

    Still not sold? Here’s one more reason. My Aunt Sue has been battling cancer for a number of years now. She has undergone session after session of chemo and had countless battles along the way that many people who face such an illness must endure. On the Monday morning of a new campaign for a shirt called “Winter Smile,” I received loads of texts and tags on social media from friends who saw this new design. Who was featured as “The Need” for this campaign? None other than my Aunt Sue. The ironic part is I never submitted her as a beneficiary or spoke to 26 Shirts about her, someone else did. But when I saw that a company I love so much and have supported throughout the years was now helping MY family directly? I couldn’t help but smile myself.

    There were some tears in there too.

    It was the first time I got to see “this side of the fence” per-se, seeing how 26 could directly help my own family. I saw my Aunt not long after the shirt went live. I gave her a hug, told her how much she inspired me, and that I had a great feeling that the campaign was doing well in terms of shirts sold over the two

    weeks. It turns out that feeling was right, and my aunt told me how much money had been raised after the fact. What a blessing.

    So to try to put into words what 26 Shirts means to me is difficult, even for a guy like me who is never short on words. But when you can almost find a way to quantify passion and caring and support, you must be on to something big. And who would’ve thought – selling t-shirts?! That’s just the thing: Del always says that they’re a company committed to helping those in need who just happens to sell shirts.

    “Do good.” What a concept.

    Josiah LeRoy

    The Geekiverse/BankOnBuffalo

    We're Hiring! Part-time Event Staff Team Members

    We're Hiring! 

    26 Shirts attends a variety of events throughout the year including vendor fairs, local markets, tailgates, private parties, and more! We're looking for outgoing folks to join our Events Team and help us give back and do good.

    To apply, please email Caitlin at caitlin@26shirts.com and attach your resume. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. Qualified candidates will be contacted via email. No phone calls please.    

    Description 

    Event staff team members will promote the 26 Shirts brand during vendor fairs and pop-up events by interacting with attendees, spreading awareness about the company mission, and selling company merchandise. 

    Responsibilities 

    Event staff will be responsible for the set up, manning, and take down of 26 Shirts’ display tables and merchandise at pre-scheduled events. Event staff will be required to transport themselves, and company products to and from events.  

    Mission 

    26 Shirts is a Buffalo apparel company committed to creating unique, limited edition, sports and city pride themed designs that also do good for the community. For each shirt sold during a time-limited, pre-order campaign, 26 Shirts makes a donation to a beneficiary in need, or a local charitable organization. To date, 26 Shirts has raised over $1.4 million for charities and families.

    Requirements 

    • Legally able to work in the US 
    • Demonstrated background with strong customer service skills 
    • Reliable access to transportation 
    • Personal transportation must be large enough to accommodate 2-3 tote bins and other large signage, tables, and supplies for events (In general no smaller than a standard 4-door sedan) 
    • Access to a personal smart phone with Bluetooth capabilities for mobile checkout 
    • Must be able to lift up to 50lbs 
    • Ability to stand for long periods of time as necessary
    • Willingness to work evenings and weekends 

    Compensation 

    • $15/hour 
    • Free t-shirt (Event staff will be asked to wear company apparel during events, and will receive a new shirt design for every event they work)

    Additional Information

    • Event staff will typically be scheduled in teams of 2 unless otherwise noted
    • Once approved to the team, event staff will have the ability to accept and decline events they wish to work based on personal schedules

    Guest post from Marguerite McMahon, OLVHS

    Guest post from Marguerite McMahon, OLVHS

    When you hear the letters ‘OLV,’ I’m sure a lot of things come to mind – the National Shrine and Basilica, OLV hospital, maybe Holy Mary herself.  What I find often surprises people, is that while OLV Human Services shares so much history with the Basilica and is located on the same block as the former hospital and infant home, this organization is much more diverse than people understand. 

    For example, did you know that OLVHS is a hub for community resources? Our newly renovated accessible front entrance at 790 Ridge Road features a welcoming café where building guests can access our full service dental center or  outpatient clinic while taking in the incredible historical photos that line our hallways.  Some may be surprised to know that we also offer emergency foster care, that we bought a bakery, and that we operate six schools, encompassing students from pre-K through 12th grade.  Even more astonishing, OLV Human Services works with thousands of clients each year, employing nearly 900 staff – and yes, we’re definitely hiring.    

    Now I'm going to let you in on a secret… OLV Human Services was formerly known as Baker Victory Services, or "Father Baker's". That's right, THE Father Baker. I know what you're thinking. Like many other Buffalo natives who were raised with the threat of being dropped off at Father Baker's, as I started my career here, I couldn’t help but wonder, "what did I get myself into?"

    Did I just sign myself up to work with kids that had been so ‘bad’ at home, that they were forced to come live here?  As after all, that certainly became the reputation that surrounded 790 Ridge Road and all its campus counterparts.  As I started my career at what was Baker Victory Services, I realized that this institution was significantly more than the perception that it had become synonymous with – this place was about inclusion, providing opportunities, and finding solutions to the everyday barriers people face.  It truly was an agency trying to follow Father Baker’s mission – taking the lead from the man that is known to have positively impacted hundreds of thousands of homeless, abandoned, and orphaned children during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  Today, Father Nelson Baker’s ministries – and his City of Charity - continue through OLV Human Services, as the agency works to address as many community needs as they can – vocational and educational supports, residential housing, and care coordination to name a few. 

    Now, almost six years into my employment with the WAY Program at OLV Human Services, I consider myself to be extremely lucky – lucky to work in a supportive and rewarding environment; lucky to work with people that are equally motivated to effect change; and lucky to have the opportunity to carry on Father Baker’s mission with the students and clients we serve today. 

    The WAY, or Work Appreciation for Youth program provides opportunities and experiences for youth and young adults with developing their vocational path.  My role with the agency is to oversee the Work Based Learning & Transition programming for all our high school students, scheduling them to attend regular worksites with community employers (such as 7eleven, Crunch Fitness, and the Foundry).  Students participate in hands on learning in a work environment during their school day, to address barriers to employment, develop 21st century skills, and navigate the world of work. 

    This program was a catalyst behind the acquisition of Mazurek’s Bakery in the Old First Ward; OLV Human Services is able to provide real life work experiences in disciplines such as food service, customer service, small business ownership, and beyond at this unique site.  To date, the bakery has employed nine current and former students/clients for either temporary or part time employment.  The goal is to prepare, support, and empower those we serve through the development of necessary vocational skills to enter today’s workforce.  Both community clients and students within our own educational programs participate in work based learning and additional services at Mazurek’s, however the bakery was purchased with the dream of serving the specific population of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

    Within the last six years, OLVHS developed the Statewide recognized ITP (Intensive Treatment Program), which offers specialized educational services for eligible youth ages 12-21, providing structured, individualized academia in self-contained classrooms.  Our unique cross-system program provides an elevated level of care to individuals diagnosed with autism or intellectual disabilities along with a mental health diagnosis by bridging the gap between treatment and education.  ITP has broadened the scope of what OLVHS can provide, being the only provider in the state offering a program of this nature. 

    As you can imagine, we encounter varied and diverse individuals working at OLVHS.  And yet, unfortunately, those we serve still face the unkind reputation that people associate with ‘Father Baker’s’ or alternative education, and because of that, they don’t always get a fair chance.  What many don’t know, is that most of our high school aged students (whether they attend Baker Hall, ITP, or our Residential Treatment School) participate in work-based learning so frequently, that they earn upwards of 200 hours of work experience, awarding them with a CDOS (Career Development and Occupational Studies) Commencement Credential.  Some of our students even go so far as to take the ACT WorkKeys, a nationally recognized work readiness credential. 

    OLVHS believes that different individuals need varied opportunities to learn and grow.  The WAY Program is so grateful for those employers and community organizations that have ‘taken a chance’ on our students and clients, including 26 Shirts (a worksite collaborator), and for those advocates that help level the playing field for those with disabilities and barriers to employment in WNY. 

    I was advised early on in my time with OLVHS to not judge a book by its cover; get to know that student personally, develop a relationship with them that isn’t clouded by dated reports or appearances.  As if making assumptions about someone based on their appearance isn’t bad enough, I find the opposite is worse; when a person has a diagnosis of a hidden disability, and people set expectations before knowing that individual at all.

    Individuals with a hidden disability often face barriers that affect everyday life, including lack of understanding and a negative response from peers.  Invisible disabilities can include autism, learning disabilities, mental health conditions, etc. Heathrow Airport implemented the use of a sunflower lanyard to recognize those travelers with a hidden or invisible disability; they recognized that although you may not be able to see these impairments or conditions, they’re still there, and wearing a sunflower lanyard discreetly identifies that a person may need additional support or assistance in public spaces.  Patience is a virtue, but unfortunately not a right provided to everyone we encounter.   The administration and staff at Heathrow have actively demonstrated initiative and understanding, entitling all humans to a little patience, something that we at OLVHS hope catches on in our own community. 

    Through purchasing this T-shirt, you are supporting access to free workshops for children and families in our community, including but not limited to families living with ASD.  By wearing this T-shirt, which incorporates hope and the sunflower within the Buffalo, we ask that all facing challenges – seen or unseen – will be met with patience and respect.  A little patience goes a long way … something Father Baker taught us a long time ago, and we are still practicing at OLV Human Services today.  

    Hydraulic Hearth 4/26/22

    Thanks to everyone who came out and celebrated 10 volumes of shirts, and $1.4 million donated to date!

    Special thanks to Hydraulic Hearth for hosting and Mom Said No for providing the live music all night!

     

    Melissa Close

    Melissa Close

    When community do-gooder, Ron Aughtmon, speaks of Melissa Close Farmer, words like, 'hero', 'fighter', 'determination' are spoken. Melissa, a volunteer firefighter and EMT in the Ransomville region, is just 33-years-old and battling an aggressive form of cervical cancer. So aggressive that Ron says doctors have declared that it's inoperable.
     
    "She has gone through numerous rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, and it spread to her femur, liver and lungs," explains Ron. 
     
    Ron, Co-Founder of The John Fiore Foundation, isn't related to Melissa but knows her impact on the community through his son and daughter, who are also in the firefighting service. News of her tragic illness has hit local departments hard, and companies have rallied continuously for Melissa and her husband. 
     
    "It's been a very tough go for her, and she is so young. The outcome isn't optimistic, but you can't lose hope," Ron says. 
     
    Melissa has been undergoing chemo that isn't just rigorous - it's expensive. Funds that are being raised for Melissa in all directions are going straight to the piling medical bills. With uncertainty looming, Melissa and her family are taking it day by day. But one thing is for certain - Melissa loves her hometown of Western New York and the Buffalo Bills. Ron says knowing how much hometown support she has around her is inspiring. 
     
    "Look at what you all are doing, who support 26 Shirts. You are making a difference for people here in this community - people who need us, like Melissa. It's really something to be proud of." 
     
    Melissa's 26 Shirt campaign launched 7/26 and runs through 8/8. This story provided in partnership with Kate Glaser of Hope Rises. Learn more at www.hoperisesnews.com