Fresno nonprofit using masks to help homeless students

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- You can find school spirit hot off the press at Square Heart Shops.

The nonprofit that typically showcases their custom t-shirts, bows, hats and hoodies at their storefront and on school campuses had to make modifications to continue serving the community during the pandemic.

"None of us were ready for this COVID shutdown," says Square Heart Shops Founder Vanessa Markarian. "I mean, I had to close my doors for 12 weeks."

Markarian says in addition to her shop closure, event cancellations meant fundraising opportunities for schools and parent-teacher clubs would come to a halt.

"We thought it was an important step when everyone was closing down to just have faith and do a little extra," she said.

Shifting her efforts to her online shop, she added a customizable accessory everyone is sporting these days.

Whether you want to customize your mask with a familiar face or show off your school spirit, just head to their website and you can choose from the different selections ranging from $12-15.

Proceeds from personalized masks not associated with a school will benefit homeless students through Fresno Mission.

"We saw Matt Dildine speak so passionately about the students who are homeless that cannot distance learn, and we love that the Mission is setting up a place for them to do their distance learning," Markarian said.

Since the nonprofit's inception, Square Heart Shops has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for schools and organizations.

Four years ago we were with Vanessa when the shop was in her garage, as she and her team raised more than $6,000 to send students with Peoples Church on a mission trip to Kenya.

Now, the non-profit is partnered with 22 different schools to create "spiritwear."

Each has its own locker with samples of what's available, but new options are always in the works.

"Even schools not partnered with us can now go on our website and order, and we will give money directly back to their school as well," Markarian said.

For customer safety, the shop on Cromwell is now open by appointment only. Masks are worn, surfaces are wiped down and sample items are steamed after they're tried on.

To book an appointment or browse their selection online, visit their website.
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