It’s been a few months since a group called I Love Ferguson started selling T-shirts, mugs and hats aimed at boosting the beleaguered town.
Since then, former Ferguson Mayor Brian Fletcher said the committee’s wares have been sold worldwide.
“We’ve shipped shirts to the United Kingdom, Italy and France. Our products are in 33 different countries,” said Fletcher, who is part of the I Love Ferguson committee. “They’ve been sent by relatives or they’ve been picked up at the I Love Ferguson store and brought back to those countries.”
Sales were brisk enough for Fletcher’s group to present a $50,000 check on Tuesday to the Reinvest North County Fund, which provides grants to businesses and school districts affected by unrest in and around Ferguson. Fletcher said his group raised that amount of money since Nov. 24, the day when a grand jury’s decision not to indict former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson sparked looting and arson.
“Rather than sit back and feel sorry for ourselves, we took a positive action,” Fletcher said. “It made us feel better for doing it and at the same time helping the many businesses at Christmastime — the hardest time of the year for your family. They’ve lost their livelihoods, many of the employees are out of work.”
North County Inc. President and CEO Rebecca Zoll said her group is helping administer the Reinvest North County Fund. She said the fund has received more than $350,000 to help several dozen businesses.
“This fund specifically is a grant, it’s not a loan. For the businesses that are really struggling right now to keep their doors open, this is money that they don’t have pay back,” Zoll said. “That’s going to be very helpful for them. Also, [it will help] in the recovery process, which will come later. That’s going to be a long process. And it’s going to be difficult.”
One of the businesses that received a $5,000 grant on Tuesday was Fan Wireless, a cellphone store owned by Nebeyou Teffera. His store was damaged and looted after the grand jury decision became public and hasn’t been open since that day.
“We lose a lot of customers because we just keep closing the store,” Teffera said. “It’s been so long. So it’s going to be hard to get all the customers back, but I’m hoping that everybody is going to see us, that we are there. So, they’re going to come back around.”
Ferguson Commission Gets Donations
Meanwhile, the Ferguson Commission tapped one of its 16 commissioners to help lead the entity’s day-to-day operations.
Bethany Johnson-Javois will take a leave of absence from her job as CEO of St. Louis Integrated Health Network to become the Commission’s managing director. She will also no longer be part of the commission, which now consists of 15 members.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Johnson-Javois will be paid close to $139,000 to become managing director. According to a press release, her duties include “assembling and leading Commission staff; providing strategic oversight for community engagement; overseeing all Commission-led activities including meetings, work groups and initiatives; and working with the Commissioners and community to develop” a report by next September.
“My experience leading a $1.3 million nonprofit that addresses socioeconomic and social justice factors every day is intricately connected to the Commission’s charge of leading meaningful and sustainable change,” said Johnson-Javois in a statement. “I am committed to bringing a variety of voices to the table as we work to transform our region to be more responsive to and equitable for everyone in the community.”
Johnson-Jarvois’ hiring comes as six foundations donated $150,000 to the Ferguson Commission. They include the Missouri Foundation for Health, the Deaconess Foundation, the Greater Saint Louis Community Foundation, the Incarnate Word Foundation, the Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis and the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis.
MPH spokeswoman Courtney Stewart said her organization’s funds haven’t been earmarked toward any specific purpose, but rather are going “toward the work of the commission.”