An omnipresent image showing Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, bundled up at this week’s inauguration of President Joe Biden is now helping raise money to get food to Vermont seniors.
“What a fantastic surprise,” said Jane Catton, the CEO of Age Well, referring to news that a fundraising effort will turn a silly meme into an opportunity to do some serious good work. “At the end of the day, this is about giving back.”
Age Well is one of five agencies on aging across Vermont that have been told they’ll receive proceeds from a sweatshirt produced by the Friends of Bernie Sanders, a political action committee. It shows that omnipresent image of the senator bundled up at the presidential inauguration.
As of Friday evening, the website listed the sweatshirts as sold out.
Friends of Bernie Sanders did not respond to NECN and NBC10 Boston’s request for an interview before the stations’ Friday evening deadline.
A flurry of memes this week placed the shot of Sanders in famous paintings, on sets of TV shows, and just about anywhere else you can imagine.
The memes show Sanders in distinctive mittens made for him out of an old sweater by Jen Ellis, a second-grade teacher in the Essex-Westford School District.
“I think people like a heartwarming story—especially now,” Ellis said earlier this week about the explosion of interest in the “Bernie’s mittens” memes.
The PAC says on its website that money from its new $45 sweatshirt will go to groups that provide meals-on-wheels deliveries to older Vermonters who are still in their homes.
Age Well said in an interview Friday that the service is perhaps more critical now than ever, since the drivers don’t just provide nourishment but also some human contact and a quick check-in — providing a boost for seniors in the era of physical distancing.
“Throughout COVID, we’ve seen anywhere from a 30 to 40 percent increase in demand for those services,” Catton said.
But if you managed to snag a sweater, be prepared to wait.
Midday Friday, the Friends of Bernie Sanders website said that due to overwhelming interest in the viral image, it’ll take three to six weeks until they arrive to customers who order them.
Then, the website was updated later in the day to lengthen the wait time to four to eight weeks — and to announce the sweatshirt had sold out.
“It’s going to make a very big difference today and down the line, as well,” Catton predicted of the money raised through the sweatshirts.