Local crafter’s charity ripples across Canada

By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
May 13 2020

SHERBROOKE – A Sherbrooke woman’s deliberate act of kindness towards the families of 22 Nova Scotians killed in a lone gunman’s rampage last month, is melting hearts and opening charitable pocketbooks across Canada.

Over the past three weeks, Shirley Kaiser has sold nearly 400 of her handmade, #NOVASCOTIASTRONG car-window decals to online customers from Ontario to Nunavut, raising nearly $2,000 for the Red Cross-administered Stronger Together Nova Scotia Fund and the RCMP Foundation.

“I thought if I could generate $500, I’d be lucky, but this is just phenomenal,” says the retired bank employee, grandmother of two, and ardent crafter. “I’ve filled orders from Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia. I even had one from Rankin Inlet. People really seem to like them.”

Allison Greene certainly does. The Antigonish resident, who is married to Sherbrooke RCMP Constable Justin Greene, saw Kaiser’s design posted to a Facebook page shortly after news of the tragedy broke. “I immediately wanted to purchase some for ourselves,” she says.

The stickers, which Kaiser makes with a Cricut pattern-cutting machine, feature the “Nova Scotia Strong” hashtag beneath a heart-shaped emblem against a blue silhouette of the province. “A friend asked me to make a map with the logo at the bottom,” she says. “I put it on my Facebook page, and it kind of snowballed from there. Before I knew it, I had 120 comments and people were ordering.”

Kaiser, who also collaborates with Courtney MacLellan of Sherbrooke on the project, charges $5 per decal (not including the $2 shipping charge). She’s especially pleased that the provincial government is covering the fees the Red Cross ordinarily charges to manage outside charity programs. “I am donating the funds to the families,” she says emphatically. “It’s that simple.”

That’s an attitude Greene has come to expect from Kaiser, whom she now considers a friend. “She has been so incredibly busy, but you really have to appreciate her kind heart, because from the get-go it was all about getting the profits to the victims’ families,” she says.

“When I saw her sticker, I began to think about how to honour and support not only the memory and family of Heidi Stevenson (the constable who died in the attack) but the whole RCMP community in the province.”

She wondered if Kaiser would be open to selling a special, two-decal package. “My idea was that the purchaser would keep one for his or her own car, and the other would be donated to an RCMP officer,” Greene says. “Plus, the money for both would go to the RCMP Foundation. I just finished preparing a package of… stickers for the Antigonish detachment.”

She adds, “The purchasers are also recognized on the back of each sticker. I have a friend in Ottawa who sent me money for one and asked me to write, ‘donated by Oliver, aged 4’. So, it’s really sweet to see that kind of support. I’d like to get more local detachments, like Sherbrooke, Arichat, and Chapel Island.”

Kaiser says of Greene’s plan, “Of course, I thought it was a great idea. So, we’re working on getting around 80 done for that. I never dreamed in a million years that this would ever go this fast.”

Still, the prospect doesn’t daunt a woman who, only a few weeks ago, was sewing the last of 45 surgical caps she’d agreed to make for the Women’s and Children’s Health Unit of St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish.

“This week, I’m planning to hand over all the money we’ve collected so far,” Kaiser says.

“I’m just waiting until I get it all together,” she adds with a laugh, “The orders are still coming in.”