House of Jimbo is honoured to have the support of Lindsay Van Gyn. A phenomenal writer, an expectational professional in her field and a true ally to social justice causes throughout Canada. We are pleased to share our space with her and her words with you.
Guest Post by Lindsay Van Gyn of Hello,Herro
Jimbo lives if only to create
When COVID hit, the legendary drag performer, film/stage production and costume designer, interdisciplinary artist, and sometimes music video star was left with idle hands ... for about 2 seconds. Jimbo, his partner Brady Taylor and design partner Sarah Runnalls saw firsthand what Victoria’s Pandora Avenue looked like during the early days of COVID-19 and the dire consequence of being a marginalized community during a pandemic. Brady, a master wig maker and engineer, Jimbo and, beloved fashion designer, Sarah Runnalls knew that with three-pairs of magic hands they could put their compulsive creativity to good use.
Jimbo and Brady transformed their Fan Tan Alley Studio, which has a “Through the Looking Glass into Burning Man” vibe to it, into a designer face-mask factory. The idea was to create a one-for-one initiative to help keep Victoria’s public safe with fashion-forward masks while being able to donate an equal amount to those living on the streets of Victoria.
Victoria’s Pandora Avenue, between Blanshard and Quadra, is home to Our Place, an inner-city community center that serves Greater Victoria’s most vulnerable: working poor, impoverished elderly, mentally and physically challenged, addicted and the homeless. This is a place that offers stability for so many people living in untenable situations, at the best of times.
Outside the center, a grassy strip that divides the road and the centre is an encampment of people with nowhere else to go. It keeps them close to the programs they rely on daily, but with addiction, mental illness and those with physical challenges, the “tent city” is now facing an increased danger with a pandemic they can’t fight, and without means to keep themselves safe. The staff and volunteers at the centre are now essential frontline workers that are faced with exposure to disease on a daily basis. COVID-19 presented a new problem for the entire community that utilizes the centre and those who care for them.
With PPE going to frontline workers, this population was being forgotten. Jimbo and Brady took the first 400 masks to Pandora and handed them out. This is where the project took its first steps. However, the masks are fabulous because of course, they are, and now The House of Jimbo is a fully-functioning mask-making social enterprise. This allows Jimbo to sell his masks as fashionable PPE and keep donating them to people who deserve to be as safe as anyone else.
Ordinary People supporting COVID efforts
Access to protection during the pandemic has become a tricky thing and with conversations around who gets what, how much and, when. The House of Jimbo is helping to fill in the gaps where the government and other agencies cannot. Everyone is spread to their limit and it takes civil action of ordinary people (in the case of The House of Jimbo, extraordinary) to look beyond their own lives, comforts, safety and livelihood and create a change to help support a system that is at its brink.
At the time of this post, 250 masks just touched down in Toronto and will be distributed to homeless members of the LGBTQIAA2S+ community. The 519 is an organization, that since 1975 has worked for inclusion, acceptance and awareness of LGBTQ+ rights in Toronto and beyond. This is not a Victoria issue, it is an “us” issue. The House of Jimbo will never waiver in their belief that their success is a solo mission; it’s a success because the communities in which we live give us the love and support we need to be the best version of ourselves.
The resilience and dedication of people like those who have worked on this initiative with the House of Jimbo, to look beyond themselves during this pandemic can come from the personal experience of marginalization. Knowing the feeling of being rendered invisible can make it easier for those who've experienced it, to see it in front of them. The House of Jimbo is a signal that no matter how cruel the world gets, creativity, compassion and some gorgeous fabric, goes a long way to extending connection in the darkest of times.
About the Author
With a background in anthropology focusing on social justice and media, Lindsay holds a masters in communication and the ability to navigate the world of Public Relations with an inclusive attitude. As the founder of Hello, Hero a public relations company, Lindsay has made it her mandate to work with social enterprise clients, brands and individuals who are striving to build a better world. Her personal slogan is specificity equals universality and it means the more we pay attention to the small things and the niche pockets of society, we eventually reach everyone.