CHELMSFORD — Those who have spent any time on social media over the past few weeks would probably agree the most popular image from President Biden’s inauguration does not include the president at all.

Instead, a photograph of a masked and social-distanced Bernie Sanders, sitting on a folding chair, legs and arms crossed, donning wool mittens and a puffy winter coat, has become the iconic image from the Jan. 20 inauguration.

The endearing photo of the bundled up former Democratic presidential candidate and independent senator from Vermont has been photoshopped into an ever-growing list of historical moments, movie and TV-show scenes, album covers and paintings, and the list goes on.

In an age of extreme and depressing political polarization — highlighted by rioting and impeachments — there is one thing the nation can agree on: The Sanders inauguration photo makes for a hilarious meme.

In addition to bringing hilarity to the internet, the image is now raising piles of money for charities nationwide, including at a local level, thanks to the crocheting talents of Chelmsford business owner Eileen DeChaves.

DeChaves, who owns Artisans Exchange and Old Mill House Coffee, got her charitable idea while reading a story about a woman who had raised money by turning the famous Sanders inauguration photo into a kinda cute little doll.

Eileen DeChaves of Chelmsford, co-owner with her brother of Old Mill House Coffee & the Artisans Exchange in Chelmsford Center, made a crochet version of Bernie Sanders with his mittens at the inauguration, which they are raffling off as a fundraiser for the Greater Lowell Food Pantry. (SUN/Julia Malakie)

According to an Associated Press article, Texas resident Tobey King sold the 9-inch Bernie doll at auction on eBay for an eye-popping $20,300. King then donated the money to Meals on Wheels America. Her charity choice was inspired by Sanders, whose campaign created sweatshirts displaying the famous image and donated all the proceeds to Meals on Wheel in Vermont  — an endeavor that has raised nearly $2 million for the organization at last count.

The pattern showing how to crochet the Bernie doll was shared online, so DeChaves decided to grab her crochet hooks and get to work.

“I thought this would be kind of cool to do, so I tried to make it and I made it,” DeChaves said, noting it took about 10 hours to complete. “Then I shared it around, and everybody was like, ‘Oh my gosh, you could make a fortune.’”

After a discussion with Danielle McFadden, president and CEO of the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce, DeChaves decided a fundraiser would be the way to go with the roughly 8-inch doll. Like Sanders and King, DeChaves decided to donate what she raises to a hunger-relief program, naming the recipient Merrimack Valley Food Bank, of Lowell.

Debbie Callery, assistant executive director of MVFB, was thrilled with the news of DeChaves’ generosity.

She pointed out MVFB provides food to feeding programs in 35 communities throughout Greater Lowell and beyond, including Life Connection Center, Megan’s House and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell. MVFB’s contributions reached nearly 80,000 people in November.

“It helps spread the word about what we’re doing to maybe a different audience,” Callery said about DeChaves’ fundraiser. “Whatever kind of exposure we can get is terrific.”

As of late Sunday afternoon, DeChaves said the fundraiser had pulled in $400 for MVFB, with the drawing set to take place Friday. Tickets can be purchased online, or in shop at the Old Mill House Coffee. Those dropping by the shop will even have the opportunity to see the Bernie doll.

“Right now, the doll is keeping warm, sitting on the espresso machine,” DeChaves said.

Callery said she bought three raffle tickets for the drawing. She’s been actively seeking out a spot to place the doll, assuming she becomes the lucky winner of the item that seems to be locked in as a piece of light-hearted American history.

“Social media has been a little volatile the last couple years, and even the day of the inauguration, obviously, there were people who weren’t happy with the results, and didn’t find joy in the inauguration,” Callery said. “But the day after it felt like everyone came together with those Bernie memes, sharing them, laughing — a really light moment we’ve been waiting for.”

Raffle tickets can be purchased online at $10 each. Those who buy their tickets in person, at Artisans Exchange and Old Mill House Coffee, will get two tickets for the price of one. The shop is located at 24 Central Square in Chelmsford.

For more information on how to buy a raffle ticket, visit

Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis