Better Together spread through Swift Current to connect its residents in a unique way with a come and go event at RE/MAX and a day of meeting community leaders. 

The non-profit creates t-shirts with prints of popular pairings (milk and cookies, peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper, or bacon and eggs) and encourages folks to connect with the wearers of their perfect match. 

Deb McNabb is one of the co-founders of the organization and said that it all came to fruition when her hometown of North Battleford saw eight suicides over the span of seven weeks. 

Five of the deaths were youths under the age of 22, and three were seniors over the age of 55. 

“It was a devastating time for our young and our old,” McNabb recalled. “Our community was suffering.” 

She worked as a pastor at the time and officiated five of the funerals where she noticed a young girl present; a Grade 11 student from the Catholic school who had a part in all of the young people’s services. 

McNabb made an effort to reach out through the girl’s mother, asking if they could connect.  

“I knew if I was struggling as a pastor, she was struggling, too,” she said.  

The student, Alyssa Woodrow, and McNabb began weekly meetings on Mondays to talk about the crisis, who they’d lost, how it had impacted them, and how important it is to find healing.  

On one of those routine Mondays, Woodrow sparked an idea to unite the two generations in hopes of saving lives.  

“Those on the front curve of life, trying to figure out where they fit or how to fulfill their dreams,” McNabb described. “And those on the back curve of life who have already met a lot of their goals, saw their dreams come to pass, and are wondering where their deposit is in community; that’s where our dialog began.”  

Woodrow birthed the idea of t-shirts with a logo and food pairings that go well together to be handed out and worn on Tuesdays; when folks wear their Better Together shirts in the community, they can connect with others who match them for organic and natural relationships to bloom.  

“We applied for a Youth Rising Grant through Take It Global and they gave us $1,500 [for] our pilot project,” McNabb explained. “We dressed 150 kids under the age of 22 and 150 seniors over the age of 55." 

Soon after, the mayors of the Battlefords made a three-month proclamation that every Tuesday as Better Together Tuesdays, so one year to the day after the first of many suicides in 2018, they launched the T-shirt initiative.  

Following the launch, Woodrow and McNabb organized events to connect the generations such as seniors going to schools, kids going to senior facilities, and meeting each other in the community.  

On Tuesdays, they would wear their T-shirts, come together, and search for their match. Shirts were handed out based on size, meaning that pairings were random.  

“We sized them, handed [their shirts] out, and threw them together to see how beautiful connected communities are,” McNabb said. “In those three months our project grew from 300 shirts to 6,000 shirts.” 

During the pandemic, students raised money for seniors to have iPads so they could video chat, and seniors put on parades outside of elementary schools—finding ways to connect while social-distancing.  

“Funeral homes were still busy,” she remarked. “Funeral homes were wearing our shirts on Tuesdays instead of their fancy suits.” 

Better Together continued to see support and growth from its surrounding communities over time, but unfortunately tragedy struck again.  

A year after launching their initiative, a young mother in the area took the lives of her two young children and then herself. The mother had been severely struggling with her mental health. Her children were in Grade 2 and Grade 5.  

“I knew them really well,” McNabb expressed. “We were just in the beginning times of COVID, and it was a devastating blow to our community again.”  

The not-for-profit created a memorial shirt in memory of the kids and their mum, that had a dandelion and daisy print; flowers that grow together in Saskatchewan. 

Thousands of memorial shirts sold. The Battlefords decorated their porches with dandelions and daisies as a tribute and to remind their neighbours that they need each other.  

As Better Together continued to grow exponentially from then on, McNabb retired from 30 years of a full-time ministry position to focus on the project and spreading the word across the province and the country. 

Last Friday, that’s exactly what she did when she visited Swift Current. 

McNabb was invited to bring her message to the area by long-time family friend Abbie Houston of RE/MAX in Swift Current.

Together they spent Friday meeting with community leaders, local businesses and organizations, health care facilities, and youth centres to hand out T-shirts and remind residents that they matter.  

Today, Houston and McNabb plan to meet with the City Council about a Better Together Tuesday proclamation, for folks to wear their shirts and connect with others.  

“What’s cool is it doesn’t matter if you’re a friend, or a stranger: you become part of the family,” McNabb said. “It’s about finding each other and championing the message that connected communities are Better Together.” 

She describes loneliness as an epidemic, adding that feeling lonely has the same health deficit that chain-smoking does. 

“Our young people don’t know that they matter; they don’t think they have platform or position or power,” she said. “They need to know that they can. It was a youth in Grade 11 who created [this project] with me.”  

Woodrow became junior citizen of the year and received a full scholarship to the University of Regina from bringing her idea to life.  

Better Together has grown too big for the T-shirt company they had been using to keep up with production.  

In January of this year, McNabb’s family took it to their local farm, where they mentor youth through the making process, with all proceeds helping them go to school and be active in their communities.  

"It's not just mental health, it's general community connecting," she concluded. "We need to connect. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. And I'm excited for Swift Current; if it's going to be like the rest of the places I've been, it just spreads quickly." 

Shirts can be purchased through the Better Together website for $25 before taxes.