SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Earlier this year, three South Plainfield Middle School (SPMS) teachers added entrepreneur and philanthropist to their resume with the launch of a for-profit company that gives back to the community.
OLOVEE – unity threads ‘four’ your community, run by middle school teachers Monica Beshara, Cheryl Hughes, and Meredith Garofalo, sells trendy products that represent and support four local causes: community recreation, family aid, youth advocacy, and animal rescue. A percentage from each purchase will go back to the South Plainfield community, with the purchasing choosing the cause of choice.
“We offer products that give back to an individual, personal causes and provide people the opportunity to know where the money is going because it is staying local,” said Garofalo, a physical education teacher at SPMS and gymnastics coach at the high school. “This way, you choose what you want to represent, who you want to donate to, and know exactly where that money is going.”
Hughes, a former coach and current physical education/heath teacher at SPMS, added, “When I found out this was going to be for charity and would help other people, it was something I wanted to be a part of. We are a company that is going to help people in our community.”
“I'm extremely excited for our start-up company because of its unique vision to help your own community,” said Beshara, a math teacher at SPMS.
Currently, OLOVEE (pronounced olive-e) offers three different styles of T-shirts (unisex, slouchy, and boxy) each bearing the company’s logo. Shirts are available in black or white with logo colors depicting the cause of choice – green for community recreation; orange for family aid; blue for youth advocacy; and violet for animal rescue. For each shirt purchased, OLOVEE will donate $4 to the buyer’s cause of choice; there are also shirts with teal and gold logos through which money will be dispersed among the four causes.
“What is special about OLOVEE is that we strive to reach your own home or your neighbors. We want to help a mom who is struggling to enroll her child in a recreational sport, a teenager who is having problems with drugs or suicidal thoughts, a family who has the desire but not the means to rescue a puppy, or a child in need of an emergency prescription,” said Beshasa. “These are just a few of the common cases we see in our daily surroundings, and are also just a few of the circumstances that OLOVEE can help.”
In selecting the causes to support, OLOVEE’s founders conducted an online survey, gathering input from friends, family, and colleagues of all ages. “We wanted to do something different and more personal and select causes that aren’t as widely fundraised for and give people a choice,” said Hughes, a physical education and health teacher at SPMS. “Sometimes, different things mean different things to other people. We are trying to reach everybody.”
In time, the goal is to expand OLOVEE’s product line and offer an online shopping option that provides purchasers the opportunity to dedicate their donation to causes and organizations beyond the borough.
“Although this company will hopefully be all over we are beginning our journey in South Plainfield, the place that we all feel at home,” Garofalo said. “We coach here, we teach here, we know the kids and families here. Being teachers and coaches in this town has lead us to meet and love so many people, so why not direct the funds back here first?”
“As teachers and coaches, we see kids who come in and they don't have much,” said Hughes. “Some may need help to buy clothes or lunch. There is a connection and you start seeing what the actual needs are.”
The OLOVEE name, though not an acronym, does include the word ‘love’ and the company’s logo features an olive branch. While OLOVEE is not designed to be political in any way, Garofalo said its concept did evolve during last year’s presidential campaign.
“Back then it felt like everyone was arguing, no one was listening to one another, and no one was agreeing to disagree,” she said. “Nothing was coming out of it and we just started talking about what we could do. We came up with the idea to create a company where we can all meet in the middle without compromising beliefs but, at the same time, make a difference.”
Garofalo added, “Whether we agree or disagree, we can make a difference, extend an olive branch and come together to do good and give back on a local front.”
T-shirts featuring the OLOVEE logo with an accent color representative of one or all four of the causes will be available for purchase at the annual community picnic, which will take place on the grounds of South Plainfield Middle School immediately following this year’s Labor Day Parade. Shirts are $24 to $28 and, for each one purchased, OLOVEE will donate $4 to the local cause of choice. The company accepts cash and checks and can also email invoices to customers looking to pay by credit card.
“We are new and have a lot to learn and grow and figure out but we are slowly on our way to accomplishing what we set out to do,” said Garofalo. “We are looking forward to getting the word out, meeting residents of the borough, and letting people know who we are and what we represent.”
“We hope that people see the positive influence OLOVEE can have so that we receive the support we need to reach as many homes as we can throughout our OLOVEE journey,” Beshara added.
For more information on OLOVEE – unity threads ‘four’ your community, stop by their vendor table on Labor Day, follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/OLOVEE-447573998935260/, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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