By now, most of us have heard the amazing story of the bullied bus monitor, and how someone who saw the video of her being ruthlessly harrassed by a group of middle schoolers decided to start a campaign to raise money to send her on a nice vacation. He hoped to raise $5000; as of this writing, it’s over $600,000.
That’s what happens when a video goes viral, but little miracles of a similar nature are happening across the internet all the time, some of them right within the fabric swap groups and Facebook communities that have sprouted up amongst our own stitchy set. I was lucky enough to be witness to one of them recently.
Rebecca Powers and her boyfriend, Ben Maciariello, had been having a tough time. Rebecca had been working three jobs and had run through most of her savings, and Ben’s job, well, it was a job, but not one you look forward to. Then, both of them landed new jobs and things seemed like they might start changing for the better. But then Ben’s bike, which he needed to get to work, was stolen from their apartment building. A friend loaned him a bike—and that one was stolen too. Now they needed to buy two bikes: one for Ben and one to replace the borrowed one that was stolen. But with no savings left, they had no idea what they were going to do.
Rebecca has been part of the Flickr community for at least a couple years now, participating in fabric swaps and other groups. She started there when she was selling aprons on Etsy, using it to store her photos, and soon, she says, “I learned that Flickr had a huge sewing community. It is a great place for ideas. I no longer sell aprons on Etsy, but I stuck with Flickr. I’ve made so many friends by swapping fabrics or handmade swaps. I frequent handmade sewing swap groups, fabric swap groups, patchwork groups, and quilting groups. I recently started my own group to try to encourage me to use more of the fabric in my own stash instead of constantly seeking out new fabric. I don’t really use any other online forums aside from Flickr. It’s amazing!”
One of her best Flickr buds is Christine (a.k.a., Sew and So Much More) and Christine knew about Rebecca’s plight and wanted to help. So she started a page on Flickr asking people to help out by donating money via PayPal. Flickr friends found the page and told their friends. And those friends told friends, and some people posted it on Facebook, and suddenly donations started coming in.
But the most amazing thing was the anonymous donor who contacted Christine to say she (I’m assuming “she” but we really don’t know!) would match all the donations, effectively doubling every dollar that came in. “Christine didn’t tell me about it until she was absolutely sure that the donor wanted to do this,” Rebecca says. When the goal of $700 (yep, that’s the cost of one good bike) was reached, “the donor came through immediately! It was amazing! I don’t want to say too much, but the donor did say that, while they would have donated the money outright, they wanted to build a sense of community by encouraging others to donate, which is why they chose to match whatever we could raise. I think that’s such an important message, which is why I wanted to mention that.”
So, within four days, a single page on Flickr raised enough money to set Ben and Rebecca’s life back on course, and most of the money came from people who had never even met Rebecca and Ben at all, and in many cases didn’t even know about them except as a link on Facebook from a fellow quilter. All many people knew was that somebody out there who loves fabric like they do needed a bit of help, and they were happy to pitch in.
How do Rebecca and Ben feel about all this?
“Both Ben and I are so utterly grateful for all the help we’ve had during this time. We were blown away by all the donations. It’s so amazing how quickly everything added up. Most donations were modest, but all were very generous and helped so much! It’s so wonderful how this community really pulled together to help another member out. I’ve never even met any of these lovely people in person. I’ve gotten to know several of these ladies through messages and swapped handmade items and fabric with many of them. I hope they know how much I truly value their friendships and how touched we are by all their help. It means so much to us. Ben was a little apprehensive at first to accept donations, but once he saw how much everyone wanted to help, he was just floored. We truly hope that one day we can at least be a part of something amazing like this to help someone else. We have a goal that we will participate in donations like this whenever we have the opportunity, whether the donation be small or large. If I could each and every one of them a super intricate and time consuming quilt to show how appreciative and thankful we are, I would in a heartbeat. Thank you so very much to each and everyone who participated in this. You’ll never know how grateful we are.”