Even before Hurricane Florence finished its damage in the Carolinas, hurricane T-shirts were for sale. Popular designs show North Carolina and South Carolina together. Some support Florence relief, either with all sales or a portion of sales.
But with so many designs coming so quickly, state officials say you should do your homework to make sure the money is going where it’s supposed to.
Liz Proctor, spokeswoman for the N.C. Secretary of State’s Office, said if you’re buying a T-shirt from a company that says proceeds go to Florence relief, look specifically at what charity and how much will be donated. Instead of following links in a pop-up ad, Google the charity yourself and then go to the official website, she added.
“The general takeaway is to always keep in mind, whether T-shirts or benefit concerts — a lot of these are acting with the best of intentions — is to give to nonprofits that do the most good,” Proctor said.
Palmetto Shirt Co.’s “One Carolina” T-shirt has already raised $10,000 for Habitat for Humanity in each of the Carolinas. Palmetto Shirt Co. owner Rusty Koss donated $5,000 each to North Carolina Habitat for Humanity and South Carolina Habitat for Humanity on Wednesday.
Koss said he thinks the company will soon be able to donate another $10,000 to Habitat, and maybe even more. He is donating 100 percent of sales from the T-shirt and “One Carolina” stickers. They’ve printed 2,600 shirts so far and sent out 744 packages of shirts ranging from one to 70 per box. Plus, other businesses like Palmetto Moon buy shirts from them, as well.
Koss, whose business is based in Columbia, S.C., remembers when Columbia was flooded a few years ago. “We were fortunate this time” not to have any flooding or lose power, he said.
They started planning the T-shirts before the hurricane hit.
“We knew that this was going to be a pretty big storm,” he said. “We had the entire week of staring down that storm to get ready.”
Koss said they chose to donate to Habitat for Humanity because Habitat has so many affiliates in different counties, “we felt it would directly impact [areas hit by Florence].”
Koss said they’ll keep making the T-shirts through at least the end of the month. Palmetto Shirt Co. has 42 employees, and he’s the one packing orders.
“We have on average $2 for the cost of the blank shirt. The remainder is being donated. In the end, we’ll take a loss on the shirt, but ... our other operations will keep us profitable for the month,” he said. “This is what we need to do, to try to do our part.”
Visit NC and Discover South Carolina, each state’s tourism arm, partnered on a #Careolinas T-shirt that shows the outline of both Carolinas with the words “We share more than a state line” separating North Carolina and South Carolina. One hundred percent of proceeds from each sale go to state relief in both Carolinas.
The website of Recover Brands, which is selling the shirts, showed that as of Wednesday evening, 6,680 #Careolinas T-shirts had been sold.
Popular Southern-themed T-shirt company Simply Southern has a Florence T-shirt that it sells via wholesale to retailers. The company website says that all proceeds from the Florence T-shirts will be donated to the American Red Cross. The Simply Southern T-shirt is pink and has “Together We Will Rise Above the Waters” on the back with illustrations of three sea turtles.
Gregory Gooden of Simply Southern, which is based in Greensboro, said Wednesday that so far they have raised more than $55,000 from the sale of the hurricane relief T-shirts.
“Simply Southern is proud to support the North Carolina communities that have been so terribly affected by Hurricane Florence,” he said.
Simply Southern also donated $83,000 from sales of its “Pray for Texas” shirt after Hurricane Harvey to the American Red Cross, Gooden said.
The Home T in Charlotte has two T-shirt designs to raise money for Florence relief. The “Carolina Love” T-shirt is blue with the word “Carolina” surrounded by a heart. Its “Carolina Strong” T-shirt has the map of both Carolinas in different shades of blue, with a heart at the states’ border.
Ryan Shell of The Home T said that typically, 10 percent of their profits are donated to multiple sclerosis research. All profits from the relief shirts will be donated.
“When the storm hit we scrambled to make a couple shirts to help fundraise,” Shell said. “In a short time we have raised $15,000 to help those impacted by the storm. The funds are being donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank. They then use the funds to buy food and disperse them to the areas in need.”
Shell said they are proud that their customers have rallied around the storm relief effort and that the company can donate funds to help.
Southernology clothing company’s “Carolina Strong” T-shirt has the Bible quote “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you,” from Isaiah 43:2 and a map showing both Carolinas. Southernology is based in Easley, S.C. The Southernology website states that a portion of proceeds will be donated to Samaritan’s Purse, the Boone-based evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization led by Franklin Graham.
Palmetto Moon is selling the Simply Southern T-shirt, “One Carolina” T-shirt and “Carolina Strong” T-shirt online, too. Palmetto Moon’s site states that $5 from each “Carolina Strong” T-shirt goes to Samaritan’s Purse Florence relief efforts.
A message from “Women of One Tree Hill” references other North Carolina-filmed TV shows, including “Dawson’s Creek,” in its appeal. The T-shirt is black with the outline of North Carolina and the word “love” along the northern border.
N.C. Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall suggests donating to charities that you know and “whose good works you’ve seen in your own community and that have resources in the affected regions to do the most good.”
She said that the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross the Food Bank of Central & Eastern NC and the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund are some examples.
Other tips for donating to charities:
▪ Watch out for groups mimicking the names of established, respected charities.
▪ Never give your credit card or bank account information over the phone or email.
▪ Be cautious about circulating GoFundMe pages appealing for donations.
▪ Research charities registered with the Secretary of State’s Office, Charitable Solicitation Licensing Division online at www.sosnc.gov/CSL/.
▪ Check Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, and Guidestar.
If you think a charity is a scam:
▪ Write down information or take a screen shot of the suspect solicitation, and then call Secretary of State Charitable Solicitation Enforcement at 888-830-4989. You can also call local law enforcement’s non-emergency line.
Proctor also said that while the state can’t regulate what percentage of a charity’s money goes to administrative costs vs. programs, you can look up charity annual reports, which come out each year before the holidays.