Remy Schaefer Stressenger is the Boston based fashion and accessories designer of her lifestyle brand, REMY Creations, and a fearless entrepreneur committed to giving back to her local community. In just the last year, she has raised over $20,000 for local Covid Relief programs.
Remy’s passion for clothing began from watching her mother sew dresses for her as a child. After selling a custom shawl on Facebook in 2012, the mother of two, (Walker, age 21, and Maxie, age 19) started her fashion label REMY, leading to her first retail store on Old South Wharf on Nantucket. Since then, she has opened shops in Duxbury and most recently on Charles Street in Boston.
Remy’s commitment to supporting her community is also rooted deeply in her being, and she has made it core to her business model. Over the years, she’s helped countless local organizations, lending her expertise and rolling up her sleeves to work wherever she is most needed. RCG recently got the chance to catch up with Remy to learn more about her most recent initiative, Masks4Meals. In this initiative, she has raised $10,000 to provide meals to frontline workers responding to the pandemic at Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as over $10,000 for other local COVID relief organizations.
Remy’s Inspiration to Start Masks4Meals
RCG: Can you share a little about yourself and what inspired you to begin your initiative, Mask4Meals, this year?
RS: I’ve always been someone who, when opportunities or problems are presented, jumps into action, like when I opened my first store. I jumped at the chance and then kind of figured it out later, instead of mapping things out ahead of time. Sometimes that’s smart, and sometimes it’s a big risk. But so far, luckily, things have worked out.
So in mid-March, with the pandemic suddenly seeming so overwhelming, I just felt helpless to do anything. Then the idea for Masks4Meals came about. One of my teenagers said, “You should just start making some masks.” I thought, I don’t have a medical degree, but I knew I could sew. Things were quiet for me because my store in Nantucket was closed for the season, and I had bags of fabrics leftover from other projects I could repurpose. So I began making masks. I also wanted to find a way for this effort to raise money to help those on the frontline. Then I learned about the local caterer, The Chef’s Table, making meals for the healthcare providers at Mass General Hospital who were working nonstop. They were looking for donations as each meal was $10, and they were serving 500 a day. This grassroots effort quickly became my purpose. I started charging $20 for the masks, so every mask sold bought a meal.
An Added Special Touch Makes Donations Even More Meaningful
RCG: That’s such a great idea! I remember watching the coverage, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, and thinking, here are these incredible, heroic medical providers, and they’re just struggling to get through the day. I’m sure that they are not taking five minutes even to have lunch. They’re pushing themselves, and for them to suddenly have a nourishing meal delivered, that must have been such a happy part of their day.
RS: The other lovely thing Mark and Julie Ellis, the owners of The Chef’s Table, did was with every meal they included a note saying the name of who donated it. This way, when the doctors, nurses, and others got their meals, they knew that a person was behind it.
RCG: What a nice touch! With every meal they’re receiving, they feel that gratitude directly. I’m sure it was amazing to be a part of that project and realize that it’s such a direct impact every day for people who are working. Is this project still happening? Can people buy masks and donate?
The Massive Impact One Idea Can Have
RS: Yes. We are still selling the masks to support local Covid relief projects. The initial goal with Mass General was to donate enough to cover an entire day. And then once we did that, it was like, “All right, let’s try to cover another day for Mass General,” So we raised $10,000 for Mass General. Then this summer, I was over on Nantucket running my shop, and I wanted to do something just for the community there. I decided that $10 of every mask sold on the island would go to Nantucket Strong, a program started by Nantucket Magazine and other local organizations offering financial relief and support for those struggling most on the island.
To date, with Masks4Meals, we have sold 2,165 masks raising over $20,000. We donated $10,000 to cover meals to caregivers at MassGeneral and Mass General Cancer Center and supported Nantucket Strong and some of the programs under their umbrella directly.
Remy Provides Support to Nantucket in Times of Need
RCG: That’s really great you were able to carry your mission on to Nantucket during the summer.
RS: Yes, it was important to me to support Nantucket, a community that has also given me so much.
RCG: I wondered about Nantucket because I know that they have such limited resources as a small island. I feel like Nantucket would be very vulnerable.
RS: Yes, it is such a small community. And everyone local knows each other. We all worked hard and encouraged visitors to follow the various health guidelines. We knew if not, it could get bad really quickly.
The island has really struggled with other domestic violence and substance abuse issues during this time. The limited mental health resources and facilities are strained because so many people are working through anxiety and depression due to the shutdown and COVID. Resources including National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), A Safe Place Nantucket, an organization that helps women suffering from domestic abuse, and ACK SAVES have needed financial support to respond to the unprecedented demand.
Special Program Supporting Adolescent Mental Health
RCG: Are you also raising money for the mental health crisis at the same time?
RS: Yes. A few years ago, I started another program where a portion of my signature piece proceeds, my Remy shawl, are donated to support research on adolescent mental health. Dr. Timothy Wilens, Chief of Child Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, and his team have been raising money for programs that he’s developing studying the adolescent brain, and the rise of suicides and drug overdoses in young people. This issue is personally important to me, so we’ve been putting money aside for the last couple of years from the shawls to support his research programs directly.
RCG: Wow, that’s such a needed resource. I’m sure there is a huge need for more research and more support on this issue. I can only imagine, now especially, how many teens are struggling to manage all of these Covid related restrictions.
So how can someone purchase your shawls and support your efforts? Is there a place online to order one in addition to your store?
RS: Yes, they can purchase the shawl on my website ( remycreations.com ) or call me directly to customize the colors.
RCG: Well, I’m so happy to hear your story. It’s so inspiring to know that you are making such an impact with the masks, shawls, and all of your advocacy.
Remy’s Advice for Those Who Aren’t Sure How to Get Started
RCG: Do you have any suggestions for women out there who want to get involved or take on a big project but don’t know where to start?
RS: I think my best advice is, open your mouth, talk, and share your ideas with those around you. Ask your friends, neighbors, really anyone how you can get involved. I believe that the only way to grow is to get out of your comfort zone; this is not a new saying, but it is true. I think you have to buy into that and believe that.
RCG: Great. Just get out there and communicate.
RS: Right. I think communication is the biggest thing. If you have an idea, start talking to your friends about it, which makes it real. It’s like the second you get it out into the universe, it becomes a reality. Because other people are going to say, “Hey, what’d you do? Have you taken that step?” From that, they unconsciously start to keep you accountable to see it through.
RCG: Thank you so much for sharing your story, Remy! The Boston, Nantucket, and Duxbury communities are lucky to have a devoted, fierce, and generous community advocate (with beautiful style) like you!
For more information on her Masks4Meals program, look here
To learn about Remy’s mental health initiative, look here