Fundraiser started to support local businesses generates nearly $90,000

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — It’s been, and continues to be, a struggle for so many businesses during this pandemic.

But the load has certainly been made lighter for hundreds of small businesses, thanks to a t-shirt fundraiser we told you about in April.

Heather Blanchard is especially busy lately doing what she loves, grooming pets at her business, Wags to Riches. Deemed a non-essential business during Pennsylvania’s early coronavirus response, the Kingston site was closed for more than two months. Unable to earn a living during that time, Blanchard heard about a t-shirt fundraiser.

Blanchard tells us, “Oh, it was a godsend. I mean it was nerve-wracking with no money coming in… Anywhere.”

She raised more than $800 by selling more than 80 t-shirts custom made for her at no cost by AxelRad Screen Printing in Wilkes-Barre. And Blanchard is far from the only one helped.

Joe Nardone, owner of Gallery of Sound, tells us, “We had to regroup. I mean we were shut down.”

The iconic record store Gallery of Sound, in Wilkes-Barre Township, raised more than $1,000 in t-shirt sales when no customers could enter the business.

“We paid our electric bill for this building while we were closed with the money we raised on selling t-shirts from AxelRad.” Reporter Mark Hiller says, “it literally kept the lights on.” Nardone says, “absolutely, absolutely kept the lights on.”

Axelrad printed custom t-shirts at no charge for 285 northeastern Pennsylvania businesses. The fundraiser is called “The Shirt Off Our Backs” and raised nearly $90,000.

Tyler Rice, graphic artist at AxelRad Screen Printing, says, “It’s been very fulfilling knowing that the money that was raised was put towards keeping people afloat and a lot of people really needed it.”

Even though every small business participating in the fundraiser, including the Game Board Cafe, did not survive the pandemic, the staff at AxelRad believes it still provided at least some benefit.

Rice says, “Just knowing that the few dollars that I was able to get them got them a little bit further in their venture, it means that I was successful.”

Rice also says AxelRad would consider restarting “The Shirt Off our Backs” campaign if small businesses are ordered to close again.

AxelRad Screen Printing in Wilkes-Barre started the fundraiser shortly after nonessential businesses were ordered to close in mid-March. The campaign made individual customized shirts for businesses to sell with each business keeping $10 per shirt.

Hundreds of businesses participated including the iconic record business, Gallery of Sound, and the animal grooming business, Wags to Riches.

Rice says Axelrad would consider restarting “The Shirt Off Our Backs” campaign if small businesses are ordered to close again.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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