When Anthony Harris founded a clothing company 10 years ago called LIRClothing, he hoped to inspire people in the community. Through LIRClothing, which stands for “Loyalty Is Royalty,” he challenged himself to bring a positive message to the community and change people’s outlook on his hometown of Riverhead.
To do so required action. And Mr. Harris quickly got to work with a grassroots effort that went far beyond giving away T-shirts and sweatshirts.
He organized a school community event to give away backpacks, T-shirts and books prior to the 2013 school year. It was the start of a growing number of community giveback events that Mr. Harris has organized. Each year, his volunteer work expands. There’s the back-to-school giveaway, a food drive for Thanksgiving and toy giveaway before Christmas. He even started an Easter egg hunt in 2021 as a way to add another event since most of them were clustered in latter part of the year.
For his dedicated commitment to the community’s youth, for serving as a role model who brings out the best in so many and for his expanded volunteer work during the pandemic, Mr. Harris is the Riverhead News-Review’s 2021 Person of the Year.
“A lot of people can say they have a full-time job, go to college, have kids and a side hustle selling clothes. But while those people are sleeping, he’s thinking of others who are working hard and still struggle,” said Jerald Davis, a close friend of Mr. Harris, in a nomination letter. “He’s thinking of how tough it was for him growing up, and making sure his kids will never have to live like that. But not just his kids.”
The pandemic only accelerated the need in the community for the type of events the 38-year-old Mr. Harris hosted, particularly around the holidays as families struggled during a rough economic stretch.
In December 2020, Mr. Harris partnered with Tyre Lodge, Bright & Early Discoveries and Hampton Jitney in Calverton to host a drive-thru toy giveaway to safely distribute toys. Cars lined up all throughout the parking lot as more than 650 toys were handed out, the largest event to date at the time.
This past December, it only grew bigger with 1,000 toys distributed. And he makes it a festive event, with Santa Claus or the Grinch there to add holiday spirit and hot chocolate available.
Shatina Anderson of Riverhead said Mr. Harris provides opportunities for high school students to work at his events to earn community service hours for their college resumes. She’s seen him donate uniforms to local club basketball teams, as one example of how he assists the youth in the community.
“I have never met someone so dedicated to giving back to the community that supports their business,” she said.
Dorothy Lewis, who has known Mr. Harris for over 30 years, said he had his sights set on establishing his own clothing line from a young age. They often talk about youth in the community and new ideas for making Riverhead a better place.
“Mr. Harris has overcome many obstacles,” she wrote in an nomination letter. “Where as being told he wouldn’t be able to succeed, he never allow the negativity deter him from his accomplishments and he continues to thrive for excellence in everything he does. He’s always trying to figure out his next achievement and coming up with other ideas to reach the youth.”
On top of running his clothing company and the volunteer work, Mr. Harris works for PSEG Long Island as a metering technician. He’s working toward a degree in electronic engineering to further his career and is a “valued member of our team,” his co-worker Michael Lewis said.
The back-to-school giveaway is the longest running event Mr. Harris has hosted. This upcoming year will mark the 10th straight event. This past August, Mr. Harris had planned on handing out donations to 100 kids, but ended up securing an additional 20 backpacks to meet the high demand.
“Mr. Harris is a wonderful father and family man,” Ms. Lewis said. “There’s nothing this young man will not do or try to do for anyone.”
2020: Dr. Lawrence Walser
2019: Det. Brian Simonsen
2018: The Students of Mercy High School
2017: Byron Perez
2016: Tijuana Fulford
2015: Steve Beal, Kevin Burgess, Anthony Chiaramonte and J.R. Renten
2014: The Shoreham-Wading River football team
2013: Michael Hubbard
2012: Denise Lucas
2011: Laurie Nigro, Amy Davidson
2010: Linda Hobson
2009: Chris Kempner
2008: Riverhead Blue Waves
2007: Maureen’s Haven
2006: Sister Margaret Smyth
2005: Alan Shields
2004: Phil Cardinale
2003: Vince Tria
2002: Bryan Tressler
2001: Annie Jackson
2000: Judy Young
1999: Members of the First Congregational Church
1998: Eileen Miller
1997: Vinny Villella
1996: Vic Prusinowski
1995: Pat Stark
1994: Sonny Okula, Jim Kane
1993: Jack Van de Wetering
1992: Bobby Goodale
1991: Joe Janoski
1990: Robert Tooker
1989: Jim & Connie Lull
1988: Jesse Goodale