New flag serves as reminder to mask up and help out

Freyja Zazu drew inspiration from Dr. Bonnie Henry when she designed her “Mask Up! Crush the Wave” flag.

The recent graduate of Camosun College’s comics and graphics program, a seamstress and designer at the Flag Shop in downtown Victoria, said the provincial health officer’s “guiding presence” played a role when she drew a heart figure wearing a mask and surfing a wave.

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“We wanted to send a message that is uplifting, and to re-enforce Dr. Henry’s message to be kind, be calm and be safe,” Zazu said.

Flag Shop owners Paul Servos and Maggie Rennick, who manufacture and sell hundreds of flags at their store on Fort Street, hope the new flag serves as a reminder for people to wear masks as the province grapples with rising cases of COVID-19 over the winter.

The owners are donating $5 from the sale of each Mask Up flag to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund.

The Times Colonist hopes to raise at least twice as much as the $350,000 it raised last year. It’s a lofty goal, but an essential mark to reach when there are so many individuals and families in need, said Times Colonist editor and publisher Dave Obee.

For Servos, it was an easy choice to support a worthwhile cause.

The Flag Shop stepped up early in the pandemic to produce “heart” flags to support the Rapid Relief Fund. The fund, established by the Jawl Foundation, the Victoria Foundation and the Times Colonist, raised more than $6 million for emergency relief for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The flag, which has a heart replacing the Maple Leaf in the centre, was conceived by the Times Colonist as a thank-you to front-line workers. The idea was that readers would cut out the flag from the newspaper and affix it to their windows.

“I saw those flags in the newspaper and knew I could help,” Servos said. “I called Dave Obee, met him outside the office and we ran it up the pole at the Times Colonist. He said: ‘Will you donate $5 a flag to the Rapid Relief Fund?’ I said yes.”

Sales of the flags raised more than $4,000.

“That really saved our business. It brought a lot of people into the store,” Servos said, adding: “It was the right thing to do.”

It hasn’t all been rosy for Servos.

He was forced to close and sell his Calgary shop early in the pandemic as COVID-19 caused oil prices to plummet. But he has been able to focus his energies in Victoria, where his business is strongly supported by the navy and coast guard, and their extended workforces.

Because the company manufactures its flags, the Flag Shop was considered an essential business and was not forced to close during the early days of the pandemic. That allowed it to build its inventory and continue selling flags.

Servos, however, feels for his many friends and associates in the tourism and hospitality industry who are struggling, and feels the Christmas Fund is a good way to help out the overall community.

“I think everyone who can has to find ways to help,” he said. “It’s what makes a community.”

The Times Colonist Christmas Fund has already provided money to the Salvation Army and the Mustard Seed Street Church, which work directly with people in need.

“The more money we get, the more organizations we will be able to help,” Obee said. “The fund was launched in 1956, and the need has never been as great as it is this year.

“Every donation helps.”

dkloster@timescolonist.com

HOW TO DONATE

Go to timescolonist.com/donate. That takes you to the Canada Helps website, which is open 24 hours a day and provides an immediate tax receipt.

If you prefer, mail a cheque, payable to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund Society, to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, 201-655 Tyee Road, Victoria, V9A 6X5.

Or use your credit card by phoning 250-995-4438 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., Monday through Friday. Outside those hours, messages will be accepted.

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