POWFest, here we come!

Just when you thought it was over, the love for Avi continues.

This Sunday, Cash Mob for Avi will be screening at the Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival (POWFest). It’s an incredible honor for our lady directors Liz and Kat, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to introduce Avi to the Portland audience.

The historic Hollywood Theatre, where it all goes down. Me, Craig, and Liz will be in attendance.

The historic Hollywood Theatre, where it all goes down. Me, Craig, and Liz will be in attendance.

We’ll be screening as part of the Feel Good Docs and are sandwiched between a pie lady, rodeo dog, stick insects, and a luchadora. If you’re in town, drop by. We’d love to say hi.

When: Sunday, March 15 at noon
Where: Hollywood Theatre – 4122 NE Sandy Blvd.
Tickets: $8

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The fate of Center Lane Stationery

Avi’s going to have a new life. And we couldn’t be happier for him.

At the end of this month, he’ll be shutting down Center Lane Stationery. Wait a minute, you might be thinking. What about the cash mob? The Fundly campaign? The hope we’ve been writing about?

I wish I could say this story had a Hollywood ending. That the cash mob swayed his landlord to give him a better lease and saved his store. (The money from the Fundly campaign will help him transition out, however, as he’ll be taking a big loss when he closes.)

We always knew there was a chance it would come to this, and we were shocked and sad as you at first. Until we realized that maybe after all, this story does have a good ending.

If you thought the Levittown community was already awesome, get this: Avi’s customers are trying to help him find new work. The love and support continue, and I couldn’t be any prouder of my hometown.

I’ll let Avi speak for himself in this new video. Watch it through to the end. The last line out of Avi’s mouth cuts to the core and will make you smile all over again. I promise.

Stay tuned for more as we follow Avi through the last days of Center Lane.

*Update*

Since writing this post, Avi’s closing date has moved up to December 24. He’s looking to donate all the merchandise in the store. If you have a lead, please email me: cellyham@gmail.com.

A huge THANK YOU from Avi!

In honor of World Kindness Day (11/13/14), we want to send a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone from all over the world who has shown kindness to Avi, either through your beautiful comments and/or your generous donations to our Fundly campaign. Avi has a special message for you all in this NEW VIDEO!!

Avi and the Silver Screen

Thursday night was pretty special.

“Cash Mob For Avi” had its theatrical premiere as part of the Big Apple Film Festival. Avi, Bharati, and Jwala joined us to see the film on the big screen at the world famous Tribeca Cinemas.

It was an honor to have the theatrical premiere of "Cash Mob For Avi" at the Tribeca Cinemas!

It was an honor to have the theatrical premiere of “Cash Mob For Avi” at the Tribeca Cinemas!

As the film began, I grabbed Avi’s hand sitting next to me. Over the next ten minutes, Avi and I got to watch about 130 experience the cash mob journey for the first time. And their reaction was palpable – you could feel a buzz of emotion in the room. As the end credits rolled we got a huge applause, and Avi exclaimed, “You did it!”

After the screening, I was called up to answer some questions about the film. Before I began my answers, I introduced Avi to the room. The crowd gave Avi a warm welcome. The love continued when many people approached Avi to offer good luck or just give him a hug. He was pretty much the biggest celebrity in the theater that night.

Liz does a Q&A after the screening

Liz does a Q&A after the screening

I asked Avi what he thought about the screening. In typical Avi fashion, he started with a humorous answer. Avi joked, “Oh my god! Avi Gandhi looked so gorgeous – I cannot believe it!”

But then he got serious. “I give the credit to you guys. These girls took my story and created a heartwarming story. Whatever it was that I was doing, I’m doing that every day. But you girls came and turned it into a very touching human story – which touches everybody and anybody’s heart.”

Sharing this night with the Gandhi family was truly very special. I think seeing the documentary on the big screen with a big audience made this whole experience a little more real for Avi.

The Gandhi family and Liz.

The Gandhi family and Liz.

 

Here are some more photos from this amazing night: 

 

 

 

We’ve Raised Over $16,000 on Fundly for Avi So Far!

I have a confession to make. When Liz suggested that we create a Fundly page with an initial goal of $5,000 to help support Center Lane Stationery, I thought she was crazy.

Her idea was this: use the film to inspire donations to help Avi restock inventory, hire someone a couple days a week to give Avi a break, or if he was forced to close, start a mini-retirement fund.

I mean, I knew Avi was special in so many ways but would people really want to reach into their pockets and donate money to someone they didn’t know? I was skeptical.

But she encouraged me to dream big, and four months after I created the campaign, I couldn’t be happier to be proven wrong. As of today, we’ve raised over $16,000 for Avi. That’s more than I ever thought possible.

Fundlyblog

More than that, it’s been heartwarming to see how Avi’s story has resonated with so many people. They get him. They perceive his kindness, his sincere appreciation of the people he serves, and how tirelessly he works.

From India to Indianapolis, people have been showing their support from around the world. Here are some of my favorite donor comments:

people like this pull the earth along with them. – Isarapu Naveen

Thank you for sharing your story. My dad actually was taken away from us running his shop – this is for him. – Mamta CHhabra

I too own a small business and it is hard work! My customers mean to the world to me as well and I’m so glad yours are recognizing you! – Mike Goodridge

God Bless you Avi – You are what makes a town HOME !!! – Matthew Cameron

Avi, you are the very fabric that makes America a great place. Best wishes buddy – Anonymous

This has restored my faith in humanity. I can only hope to know love like this someday! Showing you all love from Houston, TX! – Rickey Williams

Saw the video and wanted to show my support. I believe that if you do good, good things happen to you. You touched my heart. – Marcelo Gittermann

I used to live in Levittown and have visited this store. It makes me happy to see that there are still good people .Levittown u rock. – Lynn Saives

I do not think that I have ever seen a more deserving man. All the best to you and your wife. – AJ Fundly

People like Avi are my heros, my inspiration. Working hard everyday and bringing light into others lives. Rock on Avi!! – Thor Hanks

Loved your story, Avi! Hope your wife continues to remain well. I’m a cancer survivor, too! – Diane Tavegia

The world needs more Avis. – Ryan And Anna Candelaria

I’ve been showing this to my mom, and it’s been blowing her mind that strangers are coming together to financially give a boost to another stranger. Over the Internet.

Fundly has proven to be a perfect platform for us. Aside from just an awesome user experience, what I love most is the flexibility, as it’s allowed us to continually dream bigger and raise our goal from $5,000 to $20,000.

Their team has been super supportive as well (thanks, Krystal Gandola!) and has pitched this story on our behalf to media outlets and promoted us on their own blog to help raise as much as we can for Avi.

I don’t know what the final total will be or how Avi plans on using the money (more to come from Avi himself!), but I continue to be amazed, humbled, and above all, grateful.

Spreading the Small Business Love

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Think of all the local merchandise you could be buying! (Photo credit: Zack DeLaune.)

Our not-so-secret goal of organizing the cash mob was that it would inspire others to do the same for a beloved store owner they knew. Because we all have an Avi in our lives, whether it’s the guy who knows your coffee order the second you walk in the door, or the saleswoman who always gives you an extra big smile when you’re checking out.

So we’re happy to see this idea taking shape in people’s minds. Sally Hanseth from Santa Barbara, California recently donated to our Fundly campaign and sent me a follow-up email. In it she writes:

We have a little shop in our neighborhood with a crotchety old Australian man who owns and runs it. It’s where everyone here goes for sandwiches. The way he loves all the kids (knows all their names) and locals runs deep, and although I’ve baked him appreciation brownies for the last 10 years, your cash mob is getting me thinking!

I love this! It got me thinking of all the small businesses around the world that are suffering, and the loyal customers who would  love nothing more than to help them out.

Would you host a cash mob? If so, how can we help?

Thanks from Avi’s Daughter, Jwala

Here’s a little something Jwala posted on Reddit recently in response to the overwhelming support from the Reddit community. We wanted to share it with you all to show you how much of an impact your views and generous Fundly donations will have:

“Avi is my dad – and he really is one of the best, most genuine people I know. He doesn’t use the Internet (really, he doesn’t even know how to turn on a computer), but if he knew about this thread, I know that he would be so moved – both by your kind words, and the outpouring of generosity everyone here has shown. I can’t believe that, in two days of being published to Reddit, the Fundly has already far surpassed its goal.

My dad has an endless amount of love to share with the world, but the idea of people returning that love, on such a grand, tangible scale, would be unfathomable to him. And how could it not be? This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often.

My father works seven days a week from 7AM to 7PM. He’s nearly 65, but his determination to get through these hard times, and his love for the customers he serves, is what gets him through every day. It’s hard on all of us – I miss having breakfast with my father, waking up to see him on Christmas morning, even sitting and having a beer on a Saturday afternoon. It’s these little things that add up, and after ten years, they’re not so little anymore.

More than anything else, my father deserves to rest, to be given the opportunity to relax, to go a week without worrying about finances or how the next bill is going to be paid. He deserves to be able to spend his senior years stress-free, and the love you’ve all shown is going a long way in helping him achieve that goal.

My father isn’t alone in his plight, though – this is a situation happening all over the country, in every suburb and city, in the bodega down your street corner. Small businesses don’t thrive in a struggling economy, and though it may be easy or convenient to go to the CVS or Walgreens down the street, it’s far more meaningful and appreciated to frequent that mom-and-pop shop you pass by on your way to work.

If nothing else, support small businesses, because they deserve our love.”

– Jwala

Get Tickets for the Big Apple Film Festival!

The next exciting step for the film is bringing it to the big screen! We got accepted into the Big Apple Film Festival, so we are prepping for our theatrical premiere!
If you are in the New York area, we would love to invite you to come out for the screening. We will find a bar in the area after the screening for some celebratory drinks. And – if you need more incentive – Avi and Bhararti will be at the screening, so you can meet them for yourself.
Official Selection at the 2014 BAFF
Here are the deets:
When: Thursday November 6th
Time: 6PM screening
Where: Tribeca Cinemas – 54 Varick St at Canal St, New York, NY 10013 (Subways 1 at Canal, ACE at Canal)
Tickets: $20
Please RSVP on Facebook so we can get a count for the bar after.

 

Crying. Still Crying. Thanks for the Tears.

What an emotional past couple of weeks this has been! On October 9 Celeste and I brought our second beautiful baby girl, Marvi, into this world. The day after she was born was our four year wedding anniversary. During our anniversary, while snuggling our newest little cuddlebot in the hospital, an amazing thing started happening: Avi’s video got picked up by the Reddit community and it started going viral.

MarviT!

Not only were the views and the Fundly donations skyrocketing, but people were deeply moved by Avi as a person. Comment after comment kept pouring in about how we needed more folks like Avi in the world. It was a bizarrely meta thing to celebrate the life Celeste and I were creating together, while holding a life we just created, and watching a dream we created come to be known by the world. I don’t think I have ever cried in so many directions at once.

Even now, I *still* cry every time I watch the video. When I first pitched the idea of filming the cash mob to Liz, I told her she just needed to meet this Avi guy in order to understand why we would be doing such a thing. She obviously figured it out, and her and Kat so perfectly captured his presence as if they’d known him for years. And I’m not the only one who thinks they did an amazing job – the comments speak for themselves.

AviCraig copy

The cash mob and the resulting reaction is more than I ever dreamed possible, and it is all due to the amazingly talented people on this project, especially Liz, Kat, Mike, and Celeste. Sure, I had the cash mob idea, but it was really Celeste who did all the organizing, planning, and motivating that made it a success.

A big thank you also to everyone who has shared and continues to spread the love for Avi around the world. Y’all gonna make me cry, over and over. Avi is so humbled, and doesn’t really know what to do with himself. He feels very alive and thanks all of you for the support. Expect to hear more from him very soon.

– Craig

Avi Around the World

Tonight we had the huge honor of being featured on ABC World News Tonight with David Muir. They really captured the community feel of Levittown, and how the town came together to celebrate Avi.

It seems fitting that ABC World News wanted to do this story, because this film has really gone worldwide. After less than week, more than 363,000 people have watched “Cash Mob For Avi.” People from Germany, Japan, and India have left messages wishing Avi well.

YouTube has some cool features to see data on who is watching your videos. People from all over the globe hit play. Right now, we have views logged from 160 countries.

20131014_Overview-Map

Overview by country as of 10/15/2014

We have the most views from the following countries:

Number of Views:

20141015_Top-views-by-country

Top views by country as of 10/15/2014

Not everyone watches the entire 10:00 minutes. These countries had that highest audience retention rate, meaning they watched most of the film.

Top Audience Retention Rate:

20141015_Total-Audience-retention

Top Audience Retention Rate as of 10/15/14

I love thinking about the man in South Sudan, or the woman in Kyrgyzstan watching this film. What do they think of Avi? Do they know other “candymen” who work long days but take so much pride in their work? Will they celebrate that person in some way?

When we decided to make this film, we hoped that it would inspire more people to do random acts of kindness for small businesses in their community. Knowing that message is spreading across the world makes this process that much more meaningful.

Thank you to everyone from around the globe who has shared Avi’s story. Keep the good deeds coming!

– Liz