North Carolina chef and PBS star Vivian Howard and marine science illustrator Val Kells came up with clever ideas to sell t-shirts in support of Ocracoke

Howard raised $41,754 to help Ocracoke restaurants rebuild after Hurricane Dorian, Kells more than $12,000. 

The storm battered Ocracoke on Sept. 6 and floodwaters reached unprecedented levels, damaging homes and businesses including many restaurants that are key to the island’s tourism industry.

This fall, Howard, host of the award-winning PBS show, “A Chef’s Life,” which focuses on the cooking traditions of eastern North Carolina — using the backdrop of the Chef & the Farmer restaurant in Kinston, initially sold T-shirts emblazoned with the saying “One Island Under Tacos” to benefit Eduardo’s, a taco stand destroyed in the storm. The response to the fundraiser was so tremendous that Howard and Eduardo Chavez (owner of Eduardo’s) decided to help additional restaurateurs on Ocracoke.

After directing $15,000 to Chavez to rebuild the taco stand, Howard has partnered with The Sunday Supper to distribute the remaining $26,754 via its hurricane relief grant program.

The Sunday Supper is a North Carolina-based non-profit that enables communities to come together, build trust, give thanks and support one another.

That amount will be deposited into the restaurant fund and Ocracoke restaurants may apply for a grant to help their businesses.

McGavock Edwards, who works closely with the program, said in an email that there’s no maximum restaurants can apply for.

Each grant is reviewed and considered on a case-by-case basis, he said, but there is a requirement that the business have a business plan for how the grant funds will be used.

Grant applications can be found at

“Y’all love Ocracoke,” Howard said in the press release. “Our little fundraiser sold more than 2,500 T-shirts. I’m excited to see the profits go to help rebuild Eduardo’s taco stand as well as other Ocracoke restaurants. I’m proud to partner with The Sunday Supper to help distribute those funds; they have an impressive track record for raising money and distributing it to help food businesses come back after disasters.”  Sunday Supper is known for its 1,000-person suppers on Fayetteville Street that benefitted victims of Hurricanes Matthew and Florence. The funds raised in 2018 were specifically dedicated to helping owners of restaurants, small farms and fisheries in 13 counties across Eastern North Carolina.

Val Kells was a guest on WOVV’s What’s Happening on Ocracoke earlier this year. Photo by Peter Vankevich

Val Kells is a prolific marine illustrator who lives in Virginia and is a frequent Ocracoke visitor.  She has illustrated several field guide, most recently “Tunas and Billfishes of the World” and “Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Virginia,”published in September. She also produces giclee fish prints.

She created the artwork depicting one of Ocracoke’s prize fish, a red drum,  that was  added to the phrase “Tight Lines Tight Community.” She partnered with part-time islander Candice Cobb and and Melanie Wall of Bread & Butter Screen Printing to sell the T-shirts, primarily  through social media.
“Through your help and support, and the support of the wider Ocracoke loving community, we’re proud to say we sold nearly 800 T-shirts,” Kells said in an email.
The total sales amount of  $12,076.39 was donated to the Outer Banks Community Foundation for Ocracoke disaster relief.
“What started as a late night epiphany has turned into real relief for a unique and adored island,” Kells said about her efforts.
Candice Cobb shows the check from Val Kells’ T-shirt sales to benefit Ocracoke. Photo courtesy of Candice Cobb
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