Who knew that something as simple as a coffee drop-off to local healthcare workers could make such a colossal impact on morale?
BJ and Amber Caldwell sure didn’t — at least not when they first envisioned Support Our Fort (SOF). These 10-year owners of Anchor Marketing and Design on the Near Southside had no idea what was in store when they took a seemingly modest concept and inadvertently turned it into a movement.
Initially, SOF was meant to boost local businesses through the purchases of gift cards, which Anchor would then give away. Once Amber designed a representative logo and the Caldwells began to diffuse their plans, SOF took on a life of its own. Texts from friends showing interest in wearing shirts with the logo came pouring in, and everything clicked when one day, BJ and Amber witnessed firsthand the physical and emotional exhaustion local nurses were experiencing.
“That’s when we realized that this could be a much larger campaign,” BJ said.
The Caldwells were Johnnys-on-the-spot, anticipating the huge hit many places in their own backyards would endure because of COVID-19 and its ensuing closures. In fact, the couple built and launched the SOF website in mid-March, before shelter in place was even mandated.
The best part? One-hundred-percent of the proceeds garnered through the website are directly injected back into the community. In just under six weeks, Support Our Fort has raised more than $8,000.
Soon after the website went live, the initiative outgrew its britches. BJ and Amber realized they needed more help, so they mobilized their already-engaged group of friends who were donating and buying the shirts online. The Caldwells attribute this community effort as the reason SOF has seen such success thus far.
Support Our Fort has transformed into a Favor service of sorts — in which volunteers support struggling businesses and, simultaneously, hospital workers and first responders by delivering goods from those businesses to the people protecting us on the front lines of this pandemic. SOF has even delivered Pizza Bar None and Roots Coffee to the COVID-19 intensive care unit at Harris Methodist Hospital.
“We see it as a way to foster the development of new local business as well as provide assistance for those who may be struggling,” Amber explained.
Currently, the Caldwells sustain their efforts through personal outreach — and if that doesn’t neatly sum up our city’s small town feel, I’m not sure what does. Acting as a conduit, these creative entrepreneurs identify restaurants’ best-selling bulk offerings and coordinate delivery of said goods to various healthcare facilities.
“We have our ear to the ground thanks to relationships that we have with many of the chefs in town,” BJ added. “Those guys all have such a unique and supportive relationship with each other. It’s not just looking out for No. 1 right now. It’s looking out for Fort Worth.”
If you need another reason to love SOF, the Caldwells also created a website feature called “What’s FORT Dinner?” The tool essentially acts as a matchmaking app, generating names of Funkytown eateries and drinkeries — yes, booze, too! — based on the meal or food type you select. If you’re as indecisive as I am, the randomizer at Supportourfort.com/whats-fort-dinner is the answer to your woes.
While BJ and Amber would like Support Our Fort to eventually evolve into a nonprofit that serves people beyond the healthcare community, they’re still working out the details. You can bolster the cause by donating online or purchasing their “Fort Worth Goods for Good” merchandise at Supportourfort.com.
So if you catch a glimpse of a convoy in teal shirts and with bandannas over their faces, don’t be alarmed. They’re not bandits raring to rob you. They’re the uncaped crusaders of Support Our Fort, dishin’ out a dose o’ that good ol’ fashion love of neighbor. After all, as the mural in the Westbend parking garage reads, “Love brings together you and me.” — Christina Berger
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