Second Story Cards is a unique startup bringing community and culture together with a product that’s definitely worth writing home about. As outlined on their webpage, they are a “boutique greeting card company that elevates the creative talents of homeless men and women.” Plus, they also help them in their quest for a better tomorrow.
Second Story Cards creates greeting cards, which all stem from the ideas of card creators (all who have been or are recently homeless), are designed with help from their graphic design team, and then sold in places around D.C. The cards act as both a way for our most needy neighbors to bring meaning and purpose back into their life, while at the same time providing them with a means to make income, with 15% of each sale going back to the card creator. Even beyond that, Second Story Cards donates an additional 10% to a nonprofit of the card creator’s choice. As said on the company website, this is done “in an effort to give back to the organizations that have helped them overcome the challenges they’ve experienced.”
I recently had the chance to chat with Reed Sandridge, founder of Second Story Cards and Anthony, one of the original card creators, about the exciting potential of this project. Here’s what they had to say:
Interview with Reed, founder of Second Story Cards
Can you tell me a little bit about your background, and your story as it leads to Second Story Cards?
In 2010, I did a project while I was out of work. I had recently lost my job, and I went around every day, and gave a stranger $10. When you’re out of a job, you start to panic at some point – it’s only human nature. But my mother used to say, when you need things the most, you should stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about others – hence my idea.
I met a lot of people that year, and a lot of them were homeless. Many of them became good friends. At some point, I met a gentleman named Jim. Jim had just done a painting at a local homeless organization, and it was beautiful. And I thought, “We should be able to do something with that.” What if we took art from homeless men and women, and shared the revenue with them?
That was several years ago now. I met Jim in 2010, and I didn’t start Second Story Cards officially until December 2016. I bought a $79 Samson printer and some heavy stock paper, and sat down with a guy named Anthony, who is now housed but was then homeless, and started making some cards.
Why greeting cards?
I’ve always been passionate about hand-written communication, and maybe that most recently comes from the fact that my mom died in 2006, and I don’t really have a lot of things from her that mean something to me. The things I do have, however, are letters from her—she used to write lots of letters, and she had this kind of uncanny ability to find the perfect card. I like to think that sort of rubbed off on me.
There are so many worthy causes in the world, what drew you to tackle homelessness?
It seems to me like such a fundamental right for people to have a safe place to live. And what we do when people become homeless? We label them based on that very fact.
We have to remove ourselves from judging people on why they are homeless. People who appear “normal” might be one paycheck away from losing their apartment or home. Being labeled as homeless can be terribly debilitating and has nothing to do with the talents and gifts you have to contribute to society.
What do you wish most people knew about homelessness?
I’m going to quote one of our card creators, Jim. One day I asked him a question – it was about the Super Bowl. Almost immediately as I asked the question, I hesitated, thinking he probably had no idea who was in the Super Bowl, he’s sleeping on the street. His answer to me was:
“ I wasn’t raised by a tribe of wandering homeless people. I grew up watching football, just like any other kid.”
That quote struck me, because people walk by homeless people and it’s almost like we don’t even give them the dignity of existing, and they are not that dissimilar to us.
What’s your why?
Let’s not fool ourselves, the money (for the card creators) is critical, but what’s beautiful about it, is to see how they change, and look at themselves differently, when they see when other people appreciate their work.
Interview with Anthony, Card Creator
Background: After being homeless for nearly 20 years, Anthony got the keys to his own apartment on July 15, 2013. Today he earns enough money to pay his rent by selling the Street Sense newspaper on his corner of the city. In fact, Reed fondly refers to him as the “mayor of 19th & M” – just a block away from where he used to sleep on the street. Although he experienced some setbacks in 2016 after suffering a stroke, Anthony is now thankful for a safe place to sleep and the opportunity to work.
How did you become involved with Second Story Cards?
I got with Reed in the very beginning! I was on the corner, minding my own business when I met him – and ever since then he’s helped me improve my situation little by little.
Reed tells me you have a home (Anthony shares a kitchen with about 25 other people, and a bathroom with about 10 people in dorm-like living quarters). How is that for you?
Having a home is pretty awesome. Hopefully, eventually, I will get my own place with my own kitchen and own bathroom. Right now, I’m a pretty happy guy.
What do you wish people knew about being homeless?
Be careful with what you have, because you could lose it at any time.
What are your thoughts for others experiencing homelessness?
Keep your head up and God will make a way.
You can currently find Second Story Cards on their website and in D.C. at local stores throughout the city.