Ross businesses wage friendly battle to raise funds for veterans
What started out as a series of friendly barbs and ripostes written on signs outside Ross businesses has morphed into an annual effort to help people who have made sacrifices by serving their country.
The second-annual Sign Wars competition held this month has netted $9,300 in donations for the Veterans Leadership Program of Western PA, which provides housing, employment and other support services for veterans and their families.
“We had a wonderful time doing it,” said Dan Burda, owner of the Studio Raw Hair Salon. “I think it's helped bring businesses in this community closer together by getting involved in helping an organization that supports our veterans.”
Sign Wars raises money by asking people to make a donation when they like one of the sandwich-board style signs placed outside a shop that pokes fun at another participating merchant.
The battle began last fall when Patti Fowler, the owner of the Flowerama floral shop, relocated her business from McKnight Road to Babcock Boulevard.
Burda welcomed Fowler, who is one of his customers, to the neighborhood by placing a placard outside his shop on Babcock that made light of the new sign she erected on Flowerama.
Fowler responded by putting a sign outside her business informing Burda that if he wanted to play games with her, she was up to the task.
Photos of the signs Burda and Fowler made were posted on social media, which prompted several other businesses to join in. By Veterans Day, customers gave nearly $9,000, which was donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.
“It was exciting and very gratifying to see so many people donating to a worthwhile cause,” Fowler said. “We decided that this year, we would try to help an organization that specifically assists veterans in the Pittsburgh area. So after several people suggested the Veterans Leadership Program, we attended an open house there and learned about the important work they do.”
In addition to Flowerama and Studio Raw, this year's combatants were: 21st Century Signs, Fitness Werqs, Rum Runners Saloon, Siebs Pub, Tait Engineering, The Consignment Boutique and Turo Family Chiropractic.
The Ross Township Business and Economic Development Corp., or RED, helped coordinate this year's skirmish by holding a strategy session for participants and promoting the effort.
“In addition to collecting $9,300 to benefit local veterans, the Sign War exemplifies the spirit of camaraderie and community of our local businesses,” said Craig Linner, RED's president.
News about the friendly fracas among local businesses prompted students at North Hills High School to get involved by using a casual dress day for staff to raise money.
“At North Hills, we take great pride in preparing our students to be citizens of the world, who support those who have served as well as those in need of aid,” said Beth Williams, the high school principal. “We were thrilled to participate in this year's Sign Wars to help such a worthy cause and provide an extremely beneficial lesson to our students.”
Organizers say they would like to see more businesses join in next year.
“We know we can do better, so we're looking for ideas on how to increase participation,” Fowler said. “We think it's a great way to say thanks to the people who sacrificed so much by serving in the military.”
Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.