Generosity fuels anti-bullying T-shirt effort

Clarissa Kell | Daily Press Sam Marenger, owner of Northern Screen Printing and Embroidery in Escanaba, stands by the stacks of anti-bullying T-shirts the business made to donate to local schools. With support from other local businesses, they were able to create 2,400 shirts.

ESCANABA — Northern Screen Printing and Embroidery was able to surpass its goal of 500 anti-bullying T-shirts to donate 2,400 T-shirts to local schools because of the support of other local businesses.

The shirts read “kindness changes everything,” with the back displaying all of the businesses that made the donations possible.

Northern Screen Printing owner Sam Marenger said the project came about because his wife, Amanda, wanted to do something for the kids who might not get anything for Christmas while also providing a positive message to the kids. Amanda Marenger is a teacher at Cameron Elementary School in Gladstone.

“She sees a lot of the kids that can’t necessarily afford a shirt around Christmas,” Marenger said. “That’s kind of the main goal of this is to give disadvantaged kids something for Christmas and I think we have enough here.”

Northern Screen Printing will be donating the shirts to Cameron Elementary, James T. Jones Elementary, Webster Elementary, Soo Hill Elementary, Lemmer Elementary, Escanaba Upper Elementary, Bark River-Harris Schools and Rapid River Public Schools. Marenger said the shirts are for kindergarten through fifth grade students.

“We are giving them out to the schools and they are distributing them as they see fit,” he said.

Marenger explained the project was completely non-profit for his business, so all the money donated by the sponsors went towards the shirts. He said, because of the generosity of the other businesses, the project was able to grow from 500 to 2,400 anti-bullying T-shirts.

“When you get more sponsors than you need for 500 shirts, it turns into 2,400 shirts,” he said.

The back room of the business was packed full. Marenger said all of the T-shirts will be completed today. He said they are going to bring the first load of T-shirts to the schools today and the rest on Monday to try and get the kids the shirts before they leave for Christmas break.

Scott Bjorne, who runs the shop, said he was amazed with how the community really stepped up for this project — especially on such short notice.

“We did it in a very short period of time,” Bjorne said. “What I want to stress about this was all the local businesses coming together and stepping up and doing something for the community. It’s nice to work for people like the Marengers and deal with people like that on a daily basis that do business with us.”

Amanda Marenger and Bjorne worked together to get the sponsors — who were a majority of local businesses that work with Northern Screen Printing.

Next year, Northern Screen Printing hopes to have even more support from local businesses so there can be more shirts for the kids.

“I know Amanda is really excited for next year,” Bjorne said. “We would love to make 5,000 shirts.”

Marenger said they will also start creating the shirts earlier so it doesn’t coincide with their Christmas rush like it did this year.

“We’re trying to do this in the chaos of our busiest time of year,” he said. “So it’s definitely a little extra, but I think it’s worth it.”