SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Images of 'Honey Bears' wearing masks have popped up all around San Francisco on boarded up shops since the shelter-in-place order took effect. Now, a local artist is using his work and instant stardom of his 'Honey Bears' to help others in a big way.
The artist who goes by the name of Fnnch has already raised more than $125,000 for various charities. He's working on a new project that could make these bears even more visible.
"To me it's a universal symbol of happiness," Fnnch told KPIX 5. "It's positive. It's nostalgic. It's inclusive."
He says 'Fnnch' is his nickname from when he was one of the smallest kids growing up and he's been creating all kinds of artistic bears since 2013.
But when he created the 'Mask Bear' and 'Soap Bear' and put them up on boarded shops, the orders started coming in at a rate he's never seen before.
"People wanted to have anything at all that's really positive," Fnnch said. "The response has been just extra strong because people were craving for something so positive."
Fnnch started placing 60 of his 'Honey Bears' a week when the pandemic exploded and shops closed and boarded up their windows and doors. He estimates more than 200 'Honey Bears' have been glued onto plywood exteriors of shops.
People started flocking to his website store.fnnch.com. He sold 750 prints and 250 wood paintings in a matter of weeks and donated $129,000 to Safety Net Fund and SF New Deal.
Both non-profits are helping people who have been hard hit by the Coronavirus and struggling during this economic downturn.
"We were so thrilled when we saw Fnnch's donation come through on our website it was a complete surprise," said SF New Deal Executive Director Lenore Estrada.
"If I'm able to help other people make it through this time, that is very meaningful to me," said Fnnch.
Estrada says he has.
"It has allowed us to provide more than two thousand meals to people who are vulnerable and food insecure," he said.
Fnnch is now working on a new project called 'Honey Bear Kits'. When you order, you can opt in or out to have the location of your bear displayed on a map online for the 'Great Honey Bear Hunt'.
"When you walk your dog, stroll alone, or with your partner, you can get some exercise,do something that's fun and safe," said Fnnch. "That's been one of my goals of my art is to promote more public art in the world."
He started selling the kits two days ago online. Fnnch says 3,000 have been sold so far and will be shipped out starting next week.
So expect to see a lot more Honey Bears in San Francisco and beyond.
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