Baltimore has long been known as a center of industry since the 18th century, but like many industrial cities in post-WWII America, Baltimore has hemorrhaged jobs and residents in the last 60 years leaving neighborhoods deserted and a city in decline ever since.
In 2016, we began working with SewLab, a local husband and wife team, to produce our pledge drive tote bags. They began in Brooklyn as a bike pedal strap company. Realizing how much old, unused industrial real estate was available in their hometown of Baltimore, they moved their operation down here to Hampden, a Baltimore neighborhood known for housing factory workers during the 19th century industrial revolution. Their operation is so much more than a business. It’s also a job training center where they teach their employees how to use industrial sewing equipment. And they must be pretty good at what they do because many of their employees go on to work for another local manufacturer – Under Armour.
SewLab is dedicated to creating products of quality with American-made materials. All of the canvas, nylon, and webbing they use in making their items are purchased from suppliers along the east coast. If screen printing is involved, they engage the work of local artists.
The idea of a product made right here in Baltimore in the heart of the old manufacturing sector using American-made materials really hits home for our listeners. It makes them feel like they are helping out two causes for the cost of one donation. In the Spring of 2017, we took the idea one step further and introduced the Local Goodies tote bag – an upgraded version of the original tote bag filled with half a dozen different food items found only in Baltimore including caramels, granola, jam, cookies, coffee and chocolate. We hoped this would be a big hit with members and listeners, but we were not prepared for the response we received. Although we offered the tote for a $240 annual donation ($20/month), a pledge level we had previously never pitched on-air during drives, the local goodies tote bag become the most popular thank you gift of the pledge drive with $240 becoming our most popular giving level that Spring. It went on to one of our most popular thank you gifts in our history with requests reaching almost 500 during 6 days. We are now working on our second edition of the tote and we have businesses clamoring to be involved.