“Our community is not defined by geography.”
This quote has been a cornerstone for Taylor University’s satellite community.
Being present in hashtags, emails and conversations, this phrase reflects Taylor’s goal to show that community is not dependent on proximity or distance.
“For me, COVID-19 has taken away proximity, where we can be close to one another in the joys and despairs,” wrote Interim President Paige Cunningham in an email on April 22. “It has not taken away the reality of a community ‘not defined by geography.’ And it has given me the blessing of stepping back, and reconsidering the essentials of what Taylor is.”
As this ideology has been spread and shared, some individuals have taken the motive to the next level.
Jacob Gerding, second-year graduate student and Wengatz assistant hall director, has started an online store promoting the quote.
“I was sitting working on homework, and I noticed an interesting design on the coffee mug I was using,” Gerding said. “And then I thought, we should design something like this, and include the idea of ‘not being defined by geography.’”
From there, the project took flight.
Starting an online store using Bonfire, Gerding has designed a different t-shirt for every state in America.
“The Taylor community is dispersed all over the United States and the world, but that doesn't mean we are no longer the wonderful community that so many of us have experienced,” Gerding wrote on the online store website. “It also doesn't mean that our community stops when we're away.”
Gerding, still living in Upland, wanted to create a way to involve Taylor students with school community, even from a distance.
According to Gerding, the store has been very successful thus far.
“I wanted each state to have their own imprint, their own design,” Gerding said. “As of today (April 27), we’ve sold 142 shirts. 18 were for Michigan, 16 for Ohio, 16 for Illinois, and 36 for Indiana. Those seem to be the most popular states.”
Each individual shirt sells for $24.99. As of April 27, Gerding had raised $1,350.88.
But that’s not all. Gerding has been adamant about giving back to the Upland community as well.
“I wanted all the proceeds to support local Upland businesses,” Gerding said. “Springtime is the busy season for a lot of these companies, and because Taylor students are at home, those businesses are hurting.”
These funds have been publicly pledged to local businesses by Gerding via the online store.
Local Upland businesses benefiting include The Bridge Cafe, Ivanhoe’s, Walnut Creek Country Market and more.
“This t-shirt campaign has been created to help support those businesses, as well as remind us that while we are in different places right now, teaching and learning in new ways, engaging in discipleship and spiritual formation in not ideal ways, we are not alone,” Gerding wrote. “We are a part of the Taylor community that, no matter what, will never be defined by geography.”