Through My Lens: 'Tis the Season

Shop owners Anna Gilkerson and Zac Barkhouse share the story of how they channelled pandemic anxiety into a months-long commitment to helping others.

This week, a story of making the season kind.

It was the fear of the unknown that scared us the most. 

After long hard days of pivoting our business, Ana + Zac, we laid awake at night wondering if we would make it. Mentally, it was draining. We could feel ourselves slipping sometimes, arguing, questioning ourselves and the decisions we had made leading up to the pandemic. We knew if we were feeling that much stress and anxiety how much harder it must be for so many others. How were people coping? It weighed heavily on our minds.

One morning in late April, we received a surprise box of linen cuttings from a maker in Lithuania with the intention to be utilized for crafting. This generous gift of kindness inspired us. We wanted to use the scraps for something good. At that time there was a real need for masks in our community, so we decided to have masks made from the scraps, sell them, and donate the proceeds to mental health. We understood how important that support system was and that it always needed more funding.

We were able to make 70 masks which sold out online in four hours. We could do this again! We raised $7500 with that campaign.

As we neared the end of 2020, we wanted to increase the donation to $10,000. At the same time, we were entering a second lock-down. Our safe Atlantic bubble had burst. People were hurting.

We thought, what about a Christmas tree lot? There is nothing like a little holiday cheer to lift everyone's spirits. Zac's parents, who live on a large lot in the Eastern Shore, generously trimmed, cut down and delivered 40 Charlie Brown trees along with two dozen wreaths. We turned the little alleyway next to our store into a forest wonderland twinkling with warm lights. 

Anna and Zac outside their store in their tree lot. (Anna Gilkerson)

We opened to a line down the street. We had no idea that there would be such a longing for real trees—and scrappy ones at that! It was a nostalgic experience. Some had tears in their eyes and said the trees reminded them of the ones their grandparents had when they were growing up, the ones they trudged in the deep snowy woods to retrieve. We hit our goal. At the end of the night our little alleyway was empty and our hearts full of love. 

All the proceeds raised by Ana + Zac went to The Nova Scotia Brotherhood Initiative in partnership with The Mental Health Foundation of NS

If you are in crisis, reach out for support:


Anna Gilkerson


Anna Gilkerson is one half of Ana + Zac, a brand of high-quality pima cotton loungewear, t-shirts, underwear, and sweats ethically made in Peru. You can find their shop in Halifax’s North End, and find them on Instagram at @anaandzac.