It’s the giving season, and Maine retailer Mexicali Blues is embracing the spirit of giving this year by donating over 5,000 child-sized face masks to local schools as part of its “Global Giving Sharing Smiles” charitable program. Each year, the small business gives back 1% of total sales to organizations that do a world of good, and despite changes and challenges, this year is no different.
Mexicali Blues worked with seven school districts to distribute the masks during the week of Thanksgiving. Schools in Bangor, the greater Portland area, Windham, Freeport, and the Midcoast all received several hundred brightly colored face masks to give out to elementary and middle school students.
The idea to give back to local schools came to co-owner Kim Erskine one day while having a conversation with her sister, Laurie Gerard, a kindergarten teacher in Auburn. With all of the obstacles that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented, including kids without masks, or with masks that do not fit properly, Gerard described the current school year as the most challenging in her 25-year career.
Shortly after this conversation took place, Mexicali Blues received a shipment of colorful, comfortable, child-sized face masks from Thailand, made by artisans the business has worked with for years. Erskine remembers the moment it all came together.
“I immediately knew we needed to order more and distribute them to the schools in the communities of all of our store locations,” Erskine said. “We have such great community support in each of our locations and we thought this was an excellent opportunity to give back.
“This is a unique donation in the sense that it was not planned out in advance but a reaction to a new situation that arose out of the pandemic. Our hope is that we can provide masks where needed — and that the bright colors and fun prints add a little levity to the kids’ days. Even though you can’t see the smiles under the masks, we know that they are there!”
Erskine added that when she told Mexicali’s suppliers the plan to donate masks to local schoolchildren, they kindly sent a couple hundred extra, free of charge, to help with the effort. Since distributing the donations, Mexicali Blues has received several thank-yous and even some photos of the schoolchildren wearing the masks. It’s not hard to see some ear-to-ear grins behind them either — it has truly turned out to be an experience of global giving and sharing smiles!