How One Ivory Ella Employee Helped A Small Tennessee Town Known For Its Elephant-Sized Heart
At Ivory Ella, our promise to give back is stronger than ever as 2018 begins. We make products our elephant-loving consumers are proud to wear and have dedicated employees that honor our core values of creativity, empathy, loyalty and strength. We stand united, as many elephants in the room—demanding a safer life for this keystone species and work to encourage girls and young women to live a life inspired by our company’s beliefs.
This year, we will highlight our employee “herd” and the value they add to our company culture. We are proud to be a giving business with give back employees. Our direct mission to save the lives of elephants has simultaneously inspired community efforts that enable our employees to fulfill their passions on a local and/or personal level.
Read on for our most recent inspiration!
On September 25, 2017, Jay Reid, Print Specialist at Ivory Ella, flew to Lawrence County High School (LCHS) in Lawrenceburg, TN; a small town with an elephant-sized heart.
Waiting at the other end was Sandy Wheeley, a Digital Arts teacher and true matriarch within her community. Reid learned of Mrs. Wheeley’s extraordinary work leading a digital design class after competing against one another in the Wearables T-Shirt Challenge for Charity. When Reid called to congratulate Mrs. Wheeley and her class on winning first-runner up, she described LCHS’s close relationship to the community and how the school’s print shop is used for special fundraising projects. She also shared that the entire town of Lawrenceburg rallied together in order to get their t-shirt design voted to the top. It was a true community effort that meant more than just winning. After the phone call, Mrs. Wheeley had left an unforgettable impression on Reid.
Mrs. Wheeley’s passion and ability to share her life narrative inspired Reid to launch a Pay It Forward project. He called everyone he knew in the print world and pulled together the surprise of a lifetime; one he couldn’t have imagined without the help from his printing community, the blind trust of Lawrenceburg County and support from Ivory Ella.
Fast forward to September 26, 2017. LCHS had planned an assembly for Reid’s visit and had no idea what big surprise was coming. Mrs. Wheeley, LCHS students and what seemed like the whole town filled the cafeteria with almost a month’s worth of anticipation!
The room fell quiet after Principal Adkins’ welcome. After a few words and other recognitions, Reid happily presented Mrs. Wheeley with more than 50K worth of state-of-the-art donated print equipment/supplies and accessories from Ivory Ella (including two limited-edition Ivory Ella designs)! These donations would directly impact Mrs. Wheeley’s class and help them become even more self-sufficient and profitable, benefiting the school and local community.
Mrs. Wheeley’s reaction was priceless. “Right now, it feels like all this equipment is borrowed. I still can’t believe its mine. I don’t have toys anymore, this is real stuff! I’m still on cloud nine and think it will take a while to really feel like its mine. Jay is going to help me understand how I can best use everything!”
Lawrenceburg, TN, embodies all the characteristics of “home.” It is the kind of town where everyone knows each other by first name and gathers at the same community event after the last bell of the day.
“You really don’t have any idea of what this means in the hearts of these kids and this community. Yes, we will pay it forward! We may not have the same resources, but we will always do everything we possibly can. I don’t know if you will ever know exactly what you’ve done. We’re forever changed.” - Mrs. Wheeley
With the new equipment Mrs. Wheeley and her students are inspired to pay it forward. The supplies and machines they now have will double their efforts and allow the students to complete projects they may have only dreamed of before. They did not have a specific project in mind [yet], but their past involvement in projects like Abigail’s Plan leads us to believe that they will dream BIG.
Reid’s initial effort of paying it forward—sparked by dialing a teacher in Tennessee from his Ivory Ella office in Westerly, Rhode Island—changed the lives of people he may have never met. This story gives insight into our efforts as a company and why we elephant-lovers everywhere continue to do what we do! Continue to help #savetheelephants!
Q+A with Jay Reid:
Q: Where did your original "give back" inspiration come from?
A: I always said that someday when I was successful, I would give back. Winning the magazine contest was a huge accomplishment for me. My biggest inspiration came from Ellen Degeneres. Her shows make you feel really good watching someone give back. Now, it feels even better being the person who giving back!
Q: After the contest, what was it like when "part two" started to come together? When people started giving you supplies to donate?
A: When I pressed go on this project it was an amazing feeling to reach out to corporations and have them say, "I love it. What can I do?" It is impressive to know there are great people out there who want to help.
Q: Once you got to Lawrenceburg, TN, what was your first reaction when you saw all of the donated items together?
A: Wow! It was overwhelming. I couldn't believe it!
Q: What kind of advice would you give to someone who wants to "Pay It Forward?"
A: I would say to anyone that wants to do it, don't hesitate! "Just Do It." As it starts to roll it picks up speed and the end result is something that you will never forget.
Q: As a part of the Ivory Ella team, what does this project mean to you and the work you continue to do every day?
A: What I do every day at Ivory Ella already means the world to me. I am doing a lot of good here, but this project was different. This was something that, after winning the contest, I chose to do on my own. I hope that everyone who hears the story is inspired by it and does something good for someone else, including the other employees here at Ivory Ella.
A special thank you to everyone that donated!
M & R, Workhorse Products, Ryonet, Garston Screen Supply, Texsource, Stahls, Poly One, Anthem Screen Printing, Advanced Screen Printing and Martin Screen Supply
Watch the video here.