Let me tell you about my good friend Lee Karchawer.
Lee and I met in the Fall of 2003: me as a pimply-faced BU freshman, he as the omniscient (or, at least to me) second-year RA way up on the fifth floor of my dorm, Mohawk Hall.
Spend just a minute or two conversing with Lee (blue hat), and you’ll quickly learn he is many things: a leader, a jokester, a listener, an innovator, a creator.
That year, Lee (of Goshen, N.Y.) and I became good friends through a handful of activities related to our residential community, College in the Woods. The bond between us was born on the co-rec football field (note the Fall '03 photo above that was taken with my, ahem, disposable camera), and strengthened through Woods Olympics, Casino-in-the-Woods, CIW Council and a mishmash of other University-sanctioned events.
Lee was one of the brightest minds in the School of Management, and often found ways to creatively tie in his schoolwork with his position in Res Life. In 2005, he started My Campus Promotions, providing a variety of ways for local businesses to creatively advertise to, and through, BU students. The following year, BingMenus.com became, at the time, a revolutionary way for on-campus students to digitally order delivery from off-campus locations.
Luckily for the University community, Lee (whose father and sister are also alums) stayed at Binghamton to earn his MBA, and remained an RA in Mohawk for the four years that I spent as an undergrad. In the Fall of ‘06 -- my senior year and his final year in grad school -- the two of us “capped” our co-rec football partnership with a Championship.
Fortunately for me, our friendship didn't end there. Though he lives in Manhattan while I’m still in Binghamton, Lee and I are as close as ever, whether we’re celebrating at Homecoming, squaring off in Madden on XBOX Live, or playing phone tag.
So when I first thought about possibly taking this road trip, the very first person I wanted to speak to was Lee Karchawer. His creativity, his careful thought processes and his support were all crucial pieces to the complex gameplan I desperately needed.
But in the years since our respective graduations, Lee’s personal development continued. That invaluable ingenuity he developed through thousands of hours of classes at BU held even more potential than he had initially known.
The same brilliant marketing mind that had come up with both BingMenus and My Campus Promotions, to benefit his classmates and, of course, his grades, was taking the next, bold step -- into philanthropy.
Just as he’d recognized the need for an online food delivery service, and the need for a simpler way for local businesses to reach students, Lee recognized a need for families in low-income areas to provide gifts for their children during the holiday season.
And so, in 2011, from this need came Pay Away The Layaway.
As with any business with a legit long-term growth plan, the first couple years of Pay Away the Layaway were relatively slow and steady. Karchawer (whose day job, BTW, is at Placecast) used his invaluable networking and social media skills to raise funds that he would give back to needy families in low-income areas around the Northeast.
In 2013, media outlets picked up on Karchawer’s efforts. NBC News reached out. USA TODAY came calling. The broader exposure led to a huge increase in donations, leading to many more overjoyed families in cities around the region.
For all the marketing prowess Lee had gathered, graphic design was not among his strengths. The Pay Away the Layaway logo was the proverbial stone left unturned; clearly a cleaner, sharper representation could help the rest of the organization’s efforts, but Karchawer felt it more important to invest the money in the families in need, rather than the services of a graphic designer.
That’s where we came in. Earlier this week, I was working with Andrea Kuchinski to finalize designs for the t-shirts that will support my journey. They looked great, but were missing just one thing: a nice PATL logo.
I texted my friend Julia Barac, a talented aspiring graphic designer graduating from Binghamton University this weekend. Could she help? “Sure,” came the reply.
Monday night, Julia and I headed up to our favorite bar/restaurant in the area, Food & Fire, and put our heads together to create the perfect new logo for Lee’s organization. An hour and a half and a couple craft beers later, we had a solution: the final missing piece for the #TeamStrub t-shirt, and the final missing piece for the charity’s website.
Today, I have two big announcements.
-- I’m proud to announce that the brand new Pay Away the Layaway logo is now LIVE on their website, and ...
-- I’m proud to announce that a portion of the proceeds for every #TeamStrub t-shirt sold this summer will go to Pay Away the Layaway, the charity started by Lee Karchawer ‘05 MBA ‘07. You can buy one now HERE. I will also have shirts available for sale at each city I visit during the trip, and next week, I will have a limited quantity available for purchase prior to my departure from Binghamton. (Stay tuned for details on that.)
If you have any questions about the shirts, please Tweet them to me (@ChrisStrub) using the hashtag #TeamStrub and/or use the contact form on my website. To learn more about PayAwayTheLayaway, please visit payawaythelayaway.org. To see more work from and/or to hire Julia Barac, the soon-to-be-BU-grad graphic designer and generally awesome person in need of a job, please visit juliabaracgraphicdesign.com.
Lastly, THANK YOU, Lee. Thank you for always being there for me in Mohawk, thank you for always being there for me since Mohawk, thank you for that co-rec championship in ‘06 that I will never forget, thank you for the courage to take a journey like this, thank you for the creativity you always evoked on and off campus, and thank you for using that knowledge and brainpower for the improvement of the lives of those less fortunate. Your friendship means more than you know.