A flood of generosity: Teresa Barker of Remixed Retro
Teresa Barker knows what it is like to start a small business. It is hard work. It takes perseverance. It is long days, and long evenings too.
That is why her heart broke for business-owners in the Iowa-Illinois Quad Cities who were impacted by the historic flooding of the Mississippi River earlier this year. “I understand what it is like to put your heart and soul into your work, and I just wanted to help,” said Barker, the owner of Remixed Retro, a store that sells repurposed and restored vintage decorations, mainly midcentury lamps.
Barker’s compassion—and sense of community—led her to take action by organizing a donation drive to support the Quad Cities Disaster Recovery Fund at the Quad Cities Community Foundation. The fund continues to accept donations, and grant support to businesses, homeowners, and nonprofits affected by the food. You can donate here
The drive to support the Disaster Recovery Fund sort of happened by accident, Barker admits. She travels to local vintage fairs to sell her lamps, and during one of those fairs, she noticed people wanting photos with her yellow VW bus named “Penelope” that she always parks near her booth. She decided it was time to ask people to pay for their picture with Penelope—not to pocket the money, but to donate it instead.
“I got a bucket and sign that said people could donate to flood relief efforts, and soon, people were filling the bucket up,” she said.
Armed with $200 at the end of the day, Barker started researching just exactly where to give the money, and the Quad Cities Community Foundation made the top of the list. She said it didn’t seem like a lot of money to give, but it has put her on the path to be more philanthropic. “The whole experience has got me thinking about other things that I can do to support my community,” she said. “My husband was teasing me about the amount because some businesses have given large gifts to the Community Foundation, but when that many people put in a dollar or two, it adds up. It shows that it pays to do acts of kindness.”
“That's true,” said Anne Calder, vice president of development at the Community Foundation. “Every gift does add up. As of the end of August, we’ve received more than $210,000 in donations for the fund and have granted more than $125,000 to help people in real need. Every dollar, every act of volunteerism, transforms our region.”
The Disaster Recovery Fund was the right place to give because it is continuing to provide long-term assistance to businesses. It will take more money, perseverance, and patience to get flood-affected Quad Citizens back on track. “I just drove downtown, and some stores are still closed,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking. The flood was so devastating.”
And yet, collecting dollar bills that day made Barker reflect on generosity and what it really means. “People think that little things don’t make a difference and they do,” she said. “You have to take that extra step and say, ‘What else can I do?’ Sometimes you don’t know what assets you have that could help someone else.”