Bertrand — When Jennifer Weber started a fundraiser to help fire departments that battled recent wildfires in southwest Nebraska, she hoped to return about $1,000.
Weber has owned Pretty & Fabulous Boutique and t-shirt printing in Bertrand since 2017. In April, she wore a designer T-shirt to honor first responders. Proceeds from the sale of the T-shirts will be donated to fire departments in the local area directly affected by the fires. Within days, more than $30,000 had been raised.
A friend told her she had to do a fundraiser for fire departments shortly after the April Route 739 fire near Arapahoe. The house of Weber, whose husband was a volunteer in the Bertrand Volunteer Fire Department, caught fire. However, I got busy and decided to wait before starting the project. But just a few weeks later, another fire destroyed more than 40,000 acres near Cambridge. Webber knew she couldn’t wait any longer.
She called her stylist, Emma Larson of Loomis, about what she wanted to do. Larson ran with his “Prairie Strong” shirt idea. Weber opened online sales of the t-shirt on April 23, and created a post about this t-shirt on Facebook. Her initial post reached 85,235 people and was shared 685 times.
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Webber had hoped to be able to return a little favor to local administrations, but the effect extended far beyond she could have imagined. By April 27, Webber realized that people had ordered T-shirts from 22 states. Her new goal was to try to sell a shirt to customers in all 50 states.
“I left (the sale) open a little longer just because people are still asking,” she explained.
When the sale closed on May 1, shirts were purchased from 47 states and one to a US military base in Europe. Although Pretty & Fabulous is a full-fledged print shop, Weber knew that when sales reached over $10,000 in just a few hours, they would need to enlist the help of T-shirt printing. I worked with Sayler Screenprinting at Kearney, and reached out to them for help.
“On Monday when I hit $10,000, I called Kyle, and said, ‘Well, I’m either going to have to shut it down because this is going to take weeks on proof, or I’m going to need your help.’ It’s like, “No, we got you.” He said: Leave it open. Do what you can, and we’ll make it for you. “It was great to collaborate with him and it was great to work with another printer,” Weber said.
Webber received 40 boxes of T-shirts last week. She was waiting for the graduation party to end in order to have a location big enough to start sorting and organizing all the shirts to be shipped. She had about 10 local volunteers — many with connections to fire departments — who offered to help her get the T-shirts out of the house.
Weber has a long list of fire departments he plans to donate proceeds to, including those in south-central Nebraska that responded to the Route 739 and 702 fires and those that responded to a fire near Elsie Wallace.
As talk of t-shirts spread, Weber heard from many locals who missed the opportunity to buy a t-shirt or weren’t sure how to buy it online. Online t-shirt sales have reopened at prettyandfab.com under the title “Prairie Strong”. It will remain open until after Memorial Day. The money collected will go to the fire departments in the area that were not missed in the first round.
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“I hope to be able to help as many volunteer fire departments as possible. It would not have been possible without the support that has been received across the United States and the United States.” It is truly amazing watching people come together and work together in difficult times. That’s what makes Nebraska such a great place to live, with neighbors helping neighbors.”