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Mittens Memes Of Bernie Sanders Raise Money For Vermont Charities

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

The viral Inauguration Day image of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wearing those wool mittens is still going strong.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Besides the memes getting millions of likes, it's turned into a fundraiser. Charities will split $1.8 million. The Vermont senator talked to MORNING EDITION about it.

BERNIE SANDERS: We're just gratified. I mean, this money is coming from the sale of T-shirts and sweatshirts and stickers. And we just appreciate folks all over the country getting involved in this process.

MCCAMMON: People wanting a piece of that comedic moment bought merchandise featuring his viral image through Sanders' website. They sold out in five days. Now, those proceeds are going to at least eight charities and organizations in the senator's home state.

SANDERS: Well, the money is going to go to organizations in the state of Vermont that serve seniors. And that is the Meals on Wheels program and some senior centers as well. It's going to go to organizations that are serving low-income people in terms of rental assistance and getting food to people who need it. And those are our community action centers. And it's also going to go, I think, to try to improve dental care in the state of Vermont for lower-income people.

MARTIN: Meanwhile, Senator Sanders is still getting a kick out of the memes.

SANDERS: Some of them are so funny that it's unbelievable. So I just - I am amazed by the creativity of people all over the country.

MARTIN: And no, he does not have a favorite.

SANDERS: No favorites - but I've enjoyed them all.

MCCAMMON: The mittens were made by Jen Ellis, an elementary school teacher in Vermont. In the days after the inauguration, Ellis made a few more pairs and auctioned them off over social media. Some of her mittens are selling for as much as $4,000. The proceeds will also go to organizations in Vermont, with some set aside for her daughter's college fund. Last week, Ellis told NPR, despite the popularity, she will not be quitting her day job.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

JEN ELLIS: I'm still a public school teacher, and I'm very dedicated to that job. I'm not going to stop doing this job that I love that brings me great joy to pursue this other thing as a business.

MARTIN: So in between classes, she'll work on a few new pieces. She just announced she'll be working with a Vermont sock company making a pair of socks inspired by the Sanders mittens. Any money raised is also slated to go to charity. The senator remains a fan.

SANDERS: She certainly makes wonderful mittens. I can tell you that.

MARTIN: And the original famed pair remains a valuable possession.

SANDERS: They're my only pair. I'm a one-mitten guy. That's it - or two mittens for two hands.

MARTIN: One pair of mittens spawning so many memes.

(SOUNDBITE OF U137'S "SLIDING DOORS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.