Unlike other designers, Garic Jenkins doesn’t have an elaborate studio where he can let his creative juices flow. He has his kitchen island, a sketchpad, and a bag full of pens and colored pencils.
His “studio” space mirrors his personality. Garic is easygoing, humble, and productive. The 40-year-old Baton Rouge native has recently gained some fame around town and beyond for his t-shirts which raise money for good causes.
Although he’s only been designing t-shirts for a year and a half, Jenkins and his wife have raised close to $50,000 for charities in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Houston.
“It’s been successful because I’m surrounded by good people and a good network of friends; people who are wanting to contribute,” Garic said.
It all started after three law enforcement officers were shot in July 2016 in Baton Rouge. Two Baton Rouge Police officers and an East Baton Rouge Sheriff ’s deputy died in the shooting, and three more were injured.
“I was just racking my brain, kind of in shock like everyone else, you know, figuring out a way to do something, to help out,” he said.
The solution was initially cathartic: a simple sketch of a blue heart in between the words Baton Rouge. Garic posted a picture of the design on his Facebook page on top of a stock image of a t-shirt and received overwhelming feedback. He later set up a Facebook page called “Blue Heart Fundraiser” and walked into a local print shop to make his t-shirt dream into a reality.
“My wife set up an order form and within 24 hours we had sold 500 shirts,” he said. “So I don’t want to say it went viral, but it spread so fast. It just took off from there. We were getting messages from people all over the country.”
The couple turned their home into a distribution center, printing labels and shipping t-shirts around town and around the U.S. All of the profits from the sales, about $25,000, went to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation First Responders Fund, Garic said. But they didn’t stop there.
The couple hand-delivered about 300 free shirts to officers in the Baton Rouge Police Department and the Sheriff ’s Department. “It was like it was another level for them. You could tell in their faces,” Garic said.
After that, the t-shirt designs kept coming. Following the blue heart fundraiser, Garic designed a shirt for the Great Flood and raised $17,000 for the Louisiana Flood Relief Fund, also with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. Garic has also designed t-shirts to raise funds for the Cajun Navy, the Second Harvest food bank in New Orleans, friends and acquaintances battling cancer, and most recently Hurricane Harvey relief in September.
Both Garic and his wife Ashley are passionate about giving back. They volunteered and served meals at Celtic Studios in the aftermath of the 2016 flood. This fall, they coordinated donation drop off points for Harvey relief at Garic’s workplace and in Houston, in addition to raising thousands of dollars for the Greater Houston Community Foundation and Houston Food Bank through a t-shirt design and a donation link. People brought enough supplies to fill two 24-foot trucks headed for a warehouse in Houston.
“Every little bit, in my opinion, makes a difference,” he said. “It doesn’t take a lot of effort to help somebody or a group or make a donation. It’s just taking the time to do it.”
As far as the t-shirts go, Garic doesn’t want to stop.
“I enjoy doing the art and I’ll always enjoy seeing the people wearing the shirts and if it’s a shirt that’s connected to a good cause, then it’s a no-brainer at that point,” he said.
Although he currently designs, sells and ships t-shirts around the country in his free time, Garic can see the venture becoming a non-profit business eventually. “But at that point I’d probably have to expand beyond my friends, because they can only buy so many t-shirts,” he said.
On the whole though, this is about more than shirts. Garic is excited about giving back to his community and simultaneously inspiring others to volunteer or help out too.
“Now we’re not just doing good, we’ve got other people doing good because they saw us doing good. That’s a win-win across the board,” Jenkins said.
Garic is realistic about our city and the obstacles we need to overcome. He cited issues of racial tension and access to education as troubles that Baton Rouge has to face. But overall he is optimistic.
“I feel like some bad things have happened, but the silver lining has been that Baton Rouge has come together in a pretty amazing way after these tragedies,” he said. “Baton Rouge is a good community and I think it’s moving in the right direction. I really do.”
Image: Sean Gasser