Kaitlyn Leahy of Durham hopes Heart over Hunger, a t-shirt business she launched in early October, will help in the fight against hunger.
Leahy, a junior at Mercy High School in Middletown, said, “I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I knew I wanted to help because I realized that I’m very fortunate. Once you realize that there are problems out there and so many people don’t get enough food to live a healthy lifestyle, I knew I wanted to help.”
Launched with a website and on social media, Heart over Hunger sells originally-designed t-shirts, with the profits going to Amazing Grace food pantry in Middletown. If things go well, Leahy hopes to expand the donations to more food pantries.
The design was Leahy’s idea and features a colorful field of flowers over a world map.
The map refers to hunger as a global issue, and the flowers, according to Leahy, signify growth and happiness.
The local teenager put in many hours on the project over the summer and getting the design looking right and t-shirt ready was one of the biggest early hurdles. She eventually hired artist Jessica Bruggink to execute the image.
Referring to the image on her own t-shirt, Leahy said, “This is the design I tried to make [myself] but it didn’t look anything like this.”
Leahy used babysitting money to hire the artist.
Setting up the website at www.heartoverhunger.com was also a first for Leahy. The on-line order process means the shirts are printed on demand so Leahy does not have to manage an inventory, although that might happen in the future. “I’d definitely be interested in [an inventory], once I have a good start because I want to be able to be at certain events and show my shirts.”
Leahy worked on the project on her own, only telling a wide circle of people when it was closer to happening. She was nervous about starting, but her friends have been supportive.
Leahy has done volunteer work before, working through Mercy in Hartford. She has also volunteered with her grandmother at the ABC Hole in the Wall shop supporting the Guilford ABC House, which supports young women of color from under-represented communities attending Guilford High School.
Those experiences, Leahy said, exposed her to the impact of volunteering. “I thought, ‘Wow, I can really do this.’”
Leahy also participates in track and is an avid competitive horse rider, starting in middle school.
With the launch of Heart over Hunger, she is also working on social media to get the word out.
“A lot of these problems, the solution is in everyday people,” Leahy said. “I’m hoping to get off to a good start. I want more people to know about it, have more designs, and support more food pantries.”