Elkhart, Ind. The Elkhart community is refusing to let the tragic shooting at a Martin’s Supermarket on Jan. 15 define them.
Thousands of people have logged on to an ‘Elkhart Strong’ Facebook page since then, sharing messages of hope and support.
Michael Bailey started the page shortly after the shooting as a way to honor the victims, 20-year-old Krystle Dikes and 44-year-old Rachelle Godfread.
“My family decided we needed to do something to help in any way we could,” Bailey said.
The response is something he never expected – the page has grown to nearly 10,000 likes
And, it inspired the idea of creating a t-shirt to honor the women. Skinner the Printer in downtown Elkhart is printing the shirts, with all proceeds going to the victims’ families.
“Everybody thinks about what it is that they can do, how can I help, what can I do?” said Kristina Cooper with Skinner the Printer. “Well, what we do, we print shirts.”
The store has been flooded with calls for the shirts and plans to keep filling orders until they stop coming in. And, the support for the community and victims’ families is coming from far beyond Elkhart.
“We’re getting orders from Colorado, Tennessee, out of state,” Cooper said. “And, the response is just very heartwarming.”
But, Bailey wants people to do more than just wear the ‘Elkhart Strong’ shirt. They all bear an important message: pay it forward.
People are asked to commit two random acts of kindness in honor of Dikes and Godfread. And, the idea’s already taken off.
The ‘Elkhart Strong’ Facebook page describes instances where people have paid for strangers’ groceries or picked up tabs at restaurants.
“I want people to do something nice for somebody just because it's the right thing to do,” Bailey said. “Not because it says so on the shirt, just because it's the right thing to do.”
And, while the heartache from the tragedy will linger for a long time, the t-shirts will serve as a reminder of the legacy Dikes and Godfread leave behind – and how much easier it is to cope when you do it as a community.
“We adapt, we overcome, we heal and we become stronger,” Bailey said. “And, this proves it.”