Last month as the holiday season slowed and 2021 approached, we took some much needed time to pause and reflect on the whirlwind of a 12 months that had just passed us by.
2020 was a year of disruption. A year of unforeseen challenges. A year of loss. A year of change and uncertainty. A year of racial injustice. A year full of unexpected lessons and growth. A year of slowing down. A year or coming together and giving back. A year that reminded us what’s really important in life.
Last January the first case of the Coronavirus was discovered in our country. A couple of months later, we found ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic. As case numbers were rapidly growing, lockdowns, school closures, and nonessential business shutdowns started rolling out across the country in an effort to slow the progression of the virus.
Essentially overnight, social distancing regulations, “Stay at Home” orders, and mandate mask requirements became the new norm. Many of us suddenly found ourselves living in a new state of constant worry and anxiety over the health and safety of our loved ones.
At the same time, we saw the world coming together in a way in which we never had. When critical healthcare materials became scarce, we witnessed the beauty of the world rallying together. We saw large corporations and automakers manufacturing hospital ventilators, local breweries and distilleries pumping out hand sanitizer, and artists and makers tirelessly sewing face masks. We saw doctors and nurses (the real heroes) on the frontline risking their lives for others. We saw musicians finding new ways to spread the joy of music by performing free live concerts on social media, celebrities and businesses using their platforms to share important resources, and everyday people like you and I stepping up to help one another around the world.
While all of this was going on around us, we were busy preparing for the grand opening of the first Of These Mountains flagship store. We cut the ribbon and officially opened for business on March, 2 2020. On March 25th, like many other small businesses we were forced to temporarily close the doors of our storefront for the safety of our employees, customers, and community. This difficult decision brought on a whole new world of unexpected challenges and obstacles for our small business.
Shifting all of our efforts online, we quickly found new ways to connect with and serve our customers while working from home. We began hosting weekly “quarantine-style shopping experiences” on Facebook Live to showcase new products and offer exclusive discounts and free giveaways. This gave us a chance to interact and catch up with the customers we had grown to love spending time with at our store. To do our part in supporting our neighbors, we launched our “Cares” campaign with the release of our “Clarkesville Cares” & “Clayton Cares” tee designs which supported 3 different local businesses when purchased. We created our first toddler collection and expanded our kids line. We also began offering free shipping and a free sticker pack with every online order.
While this pivot was jarring, in a weird way it was also exciting as it took us out of our comfort zone and forced us to get creative and think differently. It proved our ability to adapt and evolve in the face of adversity. It also forced us to be vulnerable and turn to our community for support, opening our eyes to the fact that it’s okay to ask for help. Covid-19 reminded us how important community and connection are and that the only “distance” we should maintain during this time is physical.
Throughout the journey of starting a new business, we’ve learned that the everyday hustle and bustle of running a store, managing employees and inventory, and fulfilling and shipping orders all while trying to grow a loyal customer base and stay afloat financially can become overwhelming. Sometimes the stress causes you to lose sight of the real reason you started in the first place.
Sitting at home with many of the common playful distractions of life removed from our reach refueled our hunger for connection and gave us the chance to reflect – on the world, our communities, ourselves, the role we play, the role we want to play.
We asked ourselves the hard questions: Are we doing enough for our community? How are we contributing to the world? What do we stand for? How can we do more? From the beginning, our mission has been to create comfortable and stylish products that pay homage and connect us to the place that taught and inspired our love for the great outdoors. In 2021 we’re inspired to do more. As an outdoor brand, we feel it is our responsibility to be more socially responsible and are committed to taking action to preserve the places that make our lifestyles possible.
From here on, we will strive to ensure our efforts match our new mission by donating a portion of our profits to a nonprofit that aligns with our visions and goals. After doing some research, we narrowed it down to our top 4 organizations. This is where we need your help! Please read the brief overview of each organization below and vote for the one you feel most passionate about contributing to on our online poll which can be found here: Nonprofit Poll.
In the end, 2020 was a tumultuous year and our hearts are with all those who were touched by tragedy or hardship over the course of it. But there was beauty in 2020 as well and it’s up to us what we take and make from it. We chose to use this rare opportunity of clarity to reevaluate what matters most in our life, reconnect with our original purpose, and get back to our roots in order to reset for a stronger future.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Founded in 1925, The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of the Appalachian Trail, a route in the eastern United States that runs from Maine to Georgia.
Mission & Vision:
Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s mission is to protect, preserve, manage, and advocate for the Appalachian Trail — ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come. Their vision is to connect the human spirit with nature — preserving the delicate majesty of the Trail as a haven for all to enjoy.
Work & Commitment:
“The Appalachian Trail (A.T.) would not exist without volunteers.” As the heart and soul of the Trail, volunteers contribute more than 240,000 hours to preserve and protect the Trail.
“We are committed to nurture this beloved space through education and inspiration. We strive to create an ever-expanding community of doers and dreamers and work to ensure that tomorrow’s generations will experience the same mesmerizing beauty we behold today.”
Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation:
Organized in 1997, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is the primary fundraising partner for the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Their mission includes protecting the cultural and natural resources along the roadway park, as well as finding ways to get Kids in Parks and engaging the next generation of stewards.
Work & Commitment:
Since 1997, the BRPF has provided more than $18 million of support for initiatives along the 469-mile route, including historical and cultural preservation, environmental protection, visitor amenities, and education and outreach. Each year, the Foundation works closely with the National Park Service to identify initiatives on the Blue Ridge Parkway that need support.
Through the facilitation and coordination of their volunteer programs and networks, they work hard to conserve, protect, and revitalize safe hiking trails, wide-open roadside vistas, welcoming picnic areas, and fascinating historical and cultural experiences.
Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway
Established in 1988, FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway is a non-profit, volunteer and membership organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the Blue Ridge region.
Their mission is to preserve, promote and enhance the outstanding natural beauty, ecological vitality, and cultural distinctiveness of the Blue Ridge region including surrounding scenic landscape, thereby preserving it for future generations.
Work & Commitment:
Through volunteerism, giving and partnerships, FRIENDS focuses on being the link between Parkway visitors and communities by providing it’s bordering communities a way to become involved in projects. They have over 1,500 members and nearly 750 volunteers supporting the work of FRIENDS and play a primary role in recruiting volunteers to repair and maintain the trail system.
Hike it Baby
Established in 2013, Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization devoted to connecting families with children to the outdoors and each other by getting them outside on trails across the U.S. They are “raising a generation to love the outdoors” and believe in the power of nature and the importance of creating welcoming and inclusive outdoor communities.
“We are focused on creating opportunities and removing barriers to access so families with babies and young children can take their ﬁrst steps outside. We believe all families have the right to connect with nature, beneﬁt from spending time outdoors and be inspired to a lifelong love of nature.”
Work & Commitment:
Hike it Baby is committed to taking and inspiring local and global action to ensure equitable access to the outdoors for generations to come. Since its grassroots inception in 2013, Hike it Baby is a growing community of 270,000 families and over 400 volunteer Branch Ambassadors and hosts more than 2,000 hikes a month, with approximately 20,000 people hiking on a daily basis.
“We actively commit to diversity and inclusion in our community, and to continued learning and action on equity to ensure we welcome all families and leave no family behind.”
Please vote for the organization you feel most passionate about contributing to on here: Nonprofit Poll.