This USPS Worker Is Delivering T-Shirt Messages
When cities across the U.S. began shutting down to help curb the spread of COVID-19, a new job category was created: the essential worker. The title is held by employees in healthcare; food, postal, and delivery services; and other sectors considered integral to maintaining vital services under these new restrictions.
There is no doubt citizens in the U.S. and around the world recognize essential workers as heroes in their own home towns. Nightly rounds of applause and restaurants donating meals are just some of the ways that communities have shown their appreciation. But one United States Postal Service (USPS) employee took things a step further to spread awareness about the job that she and other essential workers are doing.
Keivela Tarkington, based in Kansas City, Missouri, has worked for the USPS for 24 years. When she’s not delivering mail, she spends her free time using a Cricut machine and a screen printing press to create designs for mugs, stickers, clothing, and more. When COVID-19 began spreading across the U.S., she used her crafting talents to develop a series of T-shirts to express herself while continuing to work at the post office.
Originally, Tarkington created shirts to raise awareness for essential workers who were out in the field during lockdown. These included original designs like, “Essential Worker Squad,” “Sick and TIED of This ‘Rona” (a parody of the Tide logo), and “I Can’t Quarantine, I Am a USPS Employee.”
Her designs have reached followers across the U.S., especially other mail carriers who have connected with her by sharing their experiences on the front line. Her T-shirt messages also became tied to the Black Lives Matter movement as public outrage over George Floyd’s death grew. When she’s not out delivering mail, she wears them to the office, and sends as many as she can to friends and family.
On her personal Facebook page, a shirt declaring, “Black Women Are DOPE,” with a matching mask, received over 334 likes and 106 comments, mostly people asking for sets of their own. The design is currently sold out, but Tarkington shows no signs of slowing down.
Tarkington posts images from her mail route, thoughts about life under quarantine, and DIY projects that help her blow off steam. In May, her family reunited her with her son for an extended Mother’s Day treat.
“My family surprised me and flew my son in today brought me to my knees in tears,” she wrote in an Instagram post from May 23rd. “Its been very rough mentally not having him home with all that's going on for both of us. I just been holding on to my faith. On top of him losing his grandfather to coronavirus, we both desperately needed this. I can't thank my family enough.”
While her designs have reached a small community, it’s clear from her posts how much she is loved and appreciated. But Tarkington knows that’s what being an essential worker is all about. And for her, that is enough.