Story by Julia Green / Red Cross Cascades Region
The 2020 fire season was one of the most destructive fire seasons in the state of Oregon’s history.
In a matter of days, over 17 fires raged across the state affecting communities already impacted by the global pandemic. The Red Cross worked quickly to set up disaster relief operations as Oregon residents across the state fought for their homes and their lives.
One Portland based business, FINEX Cast Iron Cookware Co., was inspired to do something when tragedy struck. Michael Griffin, the Brand Director at FINEX, described how, “When the fires happened…it had already been a tough year. And the fires hit home for a lot of us. A personal impact on an already tough year.”
FINEX produces cast iron cookware, ranging from skillets, to grill pans, to Dutch ovens. Their products can be used in homes and restaurants, but also to spend time and cook in the beautiful outdoors Oregon has to offer.
Michael himself spends a lot of time in the forests of Oregon ultra running, trail racing, and steelhead fishing. It was heartbreaking for the nature-loving team to see the places they love on fire.
FINEX’s small eight-person team in Portland came together to find a way to help. They had recently figured out a way to produce rapid, limited edition cast iron skillets.
The team worked with a local designer to craft a custom 10” skillet to benefit the Red Cross’s disaster operations. The bottom of the skillet replaced the company’s logo with a mountain shape and a Douglas fir tree (an artistic rendition of the view of Mt. Hood from the city that Portlanders know well), paired with the phrase “Keep the PNW Green.”
The skillets cost $175, with $100 (57% of the sale) dedicated to the Red Cross.
Five hundred of these skillets were launched on pre-order in order to get the Red Cross the donation money as soon as possible. All of the custom skillets sold in less than 36 hours, quickly raising $50,000 for the Red Cross’ disaster efforts.
“We all knew people evacuated or who had property damage,” reflected Michael. The project boosted the team’s morale and gave them something to do in order to help.
The team hoped that their skillet sales would also help bring attention to the issue in order to inspire others to donate and support the essential work of the Red Cross. Many skillets were sold in the Pacific Northwest, but others were sold all over the country in states like New York and Florida.
The project empowered the FINEX team during a time when their beloved state was suffering.
“It was an all hands on deck effort,” described Michael. The final product was a beautiful, custom skillet bearing a reminder of the resiliency of the state of Oregon and a reminder to the community to continue efforts to “Keep the PNW Green.”
The FINEX team learned a lot in the process of making the custom skillets, and they are prepared to do something like this again in the future.
“It was empowering for the team,” said Michael. “We know that we can make a positive difference.”