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Doctoral student uses t-shirt profits to help hurricane victims (Oct. 22, 2004)

Doctoral student uses t-shirt profits to help hurricane victims (Oct. 22, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Doctoral student uses t-shirt profits to help hurricane victims

Oct. 22, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0184}

An e-Review Feature
By John M. De Marco**

GAINESVILLE — The difference between those who think of great ideas, but never implement them, and those who follow through is actually quite small-a matter of intention, motivation and action. Because Andrew Jenkins came to terms with all three, victims of the recent hurricanes that pounded Florida are the benefactors.

Jenkins, 33, a Ph.D. student at the University of Florida (UF), stayed in touch with the Rev. Debbie Mak throughout the storms, even though church services had twice been cancelled at Wesley United Methodist Church here, the church Mak serves.

During a routine chat with Mak about how he had fared during yet another storm-he was fine except for a broken toe-Jenkins said Mak remarked, "You know, we should really make a T-shirt."

GAINESVILLE — Andrew Jenkins, a 33-year-old Ph.D. student at the University of Florida, models the T-shirt he designed and is selling to help raise money for the Florida Conference Storm Recovery Fund. Photo courtesy of Andrew Jenkins, Photo #04-0104.

"The light went on," said Jenkins, who lived in the Fort Myers area for 13 years, grew up in Olga Fort Myers Shores United Methodist Church and has a heart for residents of that area, which was hit hard by Hurricane Charley. "We were tired of hurricanes and had a sense that we should do something to somehow signify that, 'Gosh, it's been a long hurricane season!' "

Jenkins had never made a T-shirt before, although, as a nearly lifelong college student he admits to having worn plenty of them. Lack of experience notwithstanding, Jenkins sensed his one moment in time was emerging.

"I had never followed through with other brainstorms before. I've had a series of million-dollar ideas," he says, among those being an innovative Frisbee and a plastic cow patty on a bungee cord. "My first thought was that it was way too much work; we're idea people! The more I thought about it, the better it sounded."

Mak first suggested Jenkins give all the T-shirt proceeds to the church. Jenkins countered with an offer of half the profits to the church. Mak then recommended the church's portion be donated to the Florida Conference Storm Recovery Fund.

With his neighbor, Jen, lending a hand, Jenkins designed a shirt imprinted on the front with, "I SURVIVED:," followed by several check-box options that list, namely, hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. A final option, "All of the Above," is the only box actually checked.

Jenkins immediately had the shirt copywritten, and then he and his neighbor began calling silkscreen stores to get design quotes. After making their selection, the shirt was designed in about an hour, and at $10 each they became an instant hit.

"I sold five before I got out of the [silkscreen store] parking lot when I went to pick them up," Jenkins says. "I have not put a major push on. I've simply been wearing them. People ask about them, and I say I'm giving half of my profits to the United Methodist relief fund. It's just kind of word of mouth."

Jenkins did hand-deliver one to the office of University of Florida President Dr. James Bernard Machen, who purchased one. He had plans to visit the university's heralded football stadium in hopes of selling many more.

So far Jenkins says he has sold about 20 T-shirts. He says his school schedule has been tough lately, making it difficult to "peddle my wares."

After Hurricane Charley, Jenkins learned a migrant workers ministry center in the Fort Myers area, along with several migrant families, had been hit hard. Jenkins traveled to the area to help out, and hopes the T-shirt sales will draw ongoing attention to Redlands Christian Migrant Center's plight as migrant workers try to recover in an area where the citrus industry has been devastated.

"Some of those families were hard-pressed economically, spiritually and socially before this," Jenkins said.

Jenkins earned undergraduate and masters degrees in English at Texas A&M and worked at a community college in Texas as assistant director of the university writing center. A year ago UF offered him a doctoral fellowship with tuition and fees covered, along with an annual stipend. Jenkins teaches literature while earning his doctorate. In addition to his T-shirt efforts, Jenkins plays on Wesley United Methodist Church's softball team, serves on the pastor-parish relations committee and helps with the children's ministry.


Florida Conference United Methodists are encouraged to send contributions to "Florida Storm Recovery Fund" Conference Special #605 to their local church. Church offerings should be sent to the Florida Conference Treasurer, The United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 3767, Lakeland, FL 33802.

Groups interested in forming a work team to assist with hurricane relief and recovery efforts should contact the Florida Storm Recovery Center at 1-800-282-8011, extension 149. The Florida Conference Storm Recovery Team can be contacted by e-mail at

Donations for relief may also be made to UMCOR Advance #982410, "Hurricanes 2004," and dropped into church offering plates or mailed to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. People donating by credit card can call 800-554-8583.

For conference news and storm updates go to

This article relates to Florida Conference Disaster Response.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a commissioned minister of the Florida Conference and a freelance writer, speaker and consultant.