Sometimes it takes leaving your home to discover how important it really is. For Craig and Megan Evans, it meant several years of living and working between New York and Los Angeles to realize how much they longed to reconnect with their Southern roots. “Being out of the South crystalizes it for you.” Craig says. “Sometimes you have to step outside to really see it and all the unique things about it.”
“The South denotes a particular feeling, an emotion – traditions.” Megan explains, and Southern roots run deep for both – Craig hails from Charlotte, NC and Megan from Charleston, SC. Living and working in LA for 14 years and married for almost 8, the Evanses knew they had to find a way to reconnect to that feeling. Combined with a shared love of home and the uncertainty of knowing when they would be able to return to the South, they decided to embark on a side venture that has taken on a life of its own. Started in the garage of their LA home, nearly three years ago, Y’allsome was born.
“First off, we knew we wanted to be a responsible company and give back in some way.” Craig says. Missing the South as they did, the Evans’ knew Y’allsome would have a two-fold purpose – to express their love of home as well as a way to give back to their homeland. For them that meant helping foster kids in the South, something they were both passionate about. Their work is a total team effort; Craig is the graphic designer and Megan the business side, but both collaborate on the designs, colors, graphics, etc. Describing their brand, Craig says “we are trying to be representative of a new wave in the South and what’s going on right now. We are looking to be authentic – not preppy or redneck.” Most of their t-shirts are screen printed in Tennessee.
While Craig was attending graduate school in Atlanta he did some pro bono work for a woman who helped educate families on adoption and foster kids in the US. It really struck a chord with him. He had never realized the extent of the problem. Megan says she always thought she would adopt. For her it was more about the kids, not just the adoption – but the fact that these kids needed so much. “Having both grown up with the support of loving families, the idea of over 100,000 kids right here in the South not having such a basic thing as a family was mind-blowing.” Craig explains.
When we started Y’allsome, we decided that a big part of our company would be about helping Southern foster kids. That’s why we donate 10% of our profits to help them find permanent homes.” Craig says.
Today in the United States, there are over 425,000 children in foster care. Over 100,000 are in need of adoptive homes right now. And each year a huge number, in excess of 20,000, age out of foster care, at age 18, with nowhere to live and no support of any kind.
Almost two years ago, the Evanses decided it was time to move back to the South. They chose Nashville. It was close enough to both of their homes and they really liked it. No longer working out of their garage, they are trying to grow their business so they can become more involved in the philanthropic side. They believe strongly in trying to raise awareness of what they are doing. While they occasionally meet some of the kids they support, they don’t have nearly as much interaction as they would like, but hope that will change in the future. In the meantime they attend and help sponsor events for them. Recently they attended an event at a non-profit pet store in Nashville that employs at-risk youth to work at the shop and in return are housed above the shop, helping to keep them out of trouble, while learning life skills.
Many of their events are with Monroe Harding, a local Tennessee organization, caring for more than 16,000 children, whose goal is to provide foster children with a safe, loving environment while their birth parents work to improve their ability to care for them, with the goal to reunite the family. In Tennessee alone, there are over 6,000 children in foster care. Although many foster children are removed from abusive and neglectful situations, they still have hope. They are just kids who laugh, play, want to be loved, and spend time with their friends. But most of all, these kids dream of finding a family to call their own.
Craig and Megan primarily work with Heart Gallery of America – their chapters in the Southern states. HGA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to use the power of photography to capture the individuality of children living in foster care, in order to help them find adoptive homes, and raise public awareness about their needs, and obtain support to help meet those needs. They have had tremendous success. When people can see and “meet” these kids they are more likely to be adopted. In it’s 15th year, the Heart Gallery ideal is being duplicated in communities across the US.
“We hope to inspire other people (and businesses) to give back to their communities – hoping for a mental shift for others.” Craig says. One of their t-shirts reads “THINK GLOBALLY – ACT SOUTHERNLY” This is how they think. Craig and Megan explain, “See what the need is out there in the world. Start by addressing the need in your own community. It will spread.
But start with a manageable need.” When you shop with Y’allsome, you should feel good about the product you’re buying, knowing your purchase goes to help others. It’s why Craig and Megan call Y’allsome goods ‘Southern Goods that Do Good.’
Photography courtesy of Thomas Gentry, Electric Peak Creative