RALEIGH (WTVD) -- When downtown Raleigh's House of Swank (HOS) clothing store was looking for a way to help facilitate the conversation about systemic racism, last month, they relied on what the shop does best: t-shirts. It started printing a new line of "Black Lives Matter" (BLM) t-shirts and face masks with all the proceeds going to help people right here in our community; and Thursday was the day to pay it forward.
Sylvia Wiggins, with her signature southern charm, seems like she's always smiling. But tonight, as the husband and wife team behind House of Swank arrived at Helping Hand Mission, Wiggins' beam seemed to get even brighter.
"Oh, we are very very excited, c'mon yall," Wiggins said smiling from ear as she held the $5,163 check from House of Swank. "We are so happy. We are so appreciative. This (check) is a super deal. That's a super big deal!"
It's been nearly a month since House of Swank shared with us its idea to raise awareness and money for the Black Lives Matter movement. Inspired by the demonstrations against systemic racism nationwide sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, HOS co-owner John Pugh tasked his friend and artist, Micah Gaugh, to design a BLM t-shirt to sell in the shop. Pugh pledged to donate every dime to Helping Hand Mission, the beloved Raleigh nonprofit that's worked to improve some of the city's most marginalized Black lives.
"The community has really gotten behind it," Pugh said. "Raleigh has stepped up in the best way possible. We are thrilled to be a part of it."
Pugh's wife and HOS co-owner Jessica Robinson added, "We wouldn't be able to pull this (amount of money) out of our own pocket. This is all the community coming out to support Black Lives Matter, and beyond that being able to support the good works around here every day."
The pandemic put a strain on resources at Helping Hand. The food pantry has run low at times as Wiggins scrambles to keep the lights and A/C on at the mission while still serving the city's neediest families who've been hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19. The donation is right on time.
"This right here makes a big difference. This is a shot in the arm to us. This really allows us to keep it going," Wiggins said. "When I got that news, I just couldn't believe it because I knew what we needed to do. We was down in the hole at one time and this pulled us out of that hole."
And while she appreciates the cash, Wiggins also says she appreciates the message on the shirts. Since arriving in Raleigh in the late 1960s, she's seen marches and racial unrest before. But she believes this time may be different.
"Brother (George) Floyd, I'm sorry, so sorry he lost his life. But in the wake of him, a lot of awakening is going on," Wiggins said. "So it's very important that we slow down and analyze this situation and to realize that we're all this thing together."
House of Swank is still selling its Black Lives Matter collection of T-shirts and face coverings. And the store is pledging to continue donating every dollar from the line to Helping Hand Mission.