KINSTON - The relief effort started modestly.
North Carolina celebrity chef Vivian Howard wanted to sell a few hundred T-shirts to benefit Eduardo's, a taco stand on Ocracoke Island destroyed in September by Hurricaine Dorian.
The tee read simply: One Island Under Tacos.
Within two weeks, 1,500 T-shirts had been sold. The response was so positive that taco stand owner Eduardo Chavez wanted to pay it forward and help other restaurants affected by the hurricane.
Now two months later, those T-shirt sales have raised $41,754 to help Ocracoke restaurants rebuild.
“Y’all love Ocracoke! Our little fundraiser sold more than 2,500 T-shirts,” Howard said in a release.
Howard is best known as the host and star of the award-winning PBS documentary-style television show "A Chef's Life," which ended last year after five successful seasons.
After donating $15,000 to Chavez to rebuild his taco stand, Howard partnered with The Sunday Supper, a North Carolina non-profit that helps build community through eating, to distribute the remaining $26,754 via its hurricane relief grant program.
“It’s great to witness, once again, North Carolinians supporting one another in times of distress,” Willa Kane, chair of The Sunday Supper Board of Directors, said in the release.
Last year’s Sunday Supper events raised more than $425,000 for Hurricane Florence relief.
This is not Howard's first hurricane relief effort. Last year, Howard sold T-shirts to help benefit the residents of Jones County, a rural county of about 10,200 people that was affected by Hurricane Florence. Jones County is adjacent to Lenior County where Howard lives and owns the restaurants Chef and the Farmer and Boiler Room.
Howard is returning to television next with a new show titled "Somewhere South."