Community is more than just the folks you meet around town, in shops, in church, or on nearby walking trails. Nowadays community for many people extends to the Internet. Congratulations to the Stockbridge Downtown Development Authority (SDDA) for recognizing this and harnessing the potential of online crowdsourcing for one of its recent successes—the Bridge to the Future COVID-19 Relief Fund.
“Crowdsourcing is the practice of engaging a ‘crowd’ or group for a common goal…Thanks to our growing connectivity, it is now easier than ever for individuals to collectively contribute.” Source: crowdsourcingweek.com.
In mid-July, the SDDA unveiled its Bridge to the Future COVID-19 Relief Fund. Donors visited the SDDA’s crowdsourcing site, hosted online by patronicity.com, to pledge donations. To keep the momentum alive, some fund-matching took place between individuals and businesses, which helped boost the fund. By mid-August, with the help of more than 40 donors, the COVID-19 Relief Fund had met its fundraising goal. Donations ranged from $2 to $550.
Meanwhile, business owners located in the Stockbridge DDA district who had been negatively affected by the pandemic were encouraged to apply for COVID-19 Relief Fund grants of up to $1,000 each. The grants were targeted to those businesses offering in-person contact such as salons, restaurants, retailers, and other service-oriented businesses.
As part of the process, applicants were asked to provide a brief description of their intended use for the funds, changes they made to help sustain their business during the crisis, and a comparison of their gross revenues from the first two quarters of 2019 versus 2020.
The following Stockbridge businesses were awarded grants through the program:
- BA Sports (aka: Bear Affair, Inc.)
- Stockbridge Barber Shop
- Country Petals
- Sandy’s Sew Terrific
- American Legion
- Jerrold’s Quality Flooring*
*Grant is in the works.
Sandy Haubrich of Sandy’s Sew Terrific, 124 E. Main St., Ste. C, Stockbridge, was tremendously appreciative of the funds she received, which she put toward rent, utilities, and insurance. “It was a great help, especially timed like it was near the holidays,” Haubrich noted. “I get it. COVID has a lot of people too scared to get out and shop—especially older people. As a result, our small businesses are taking a hit.” Her business closed temporarily in the early part of the pandemic to comply with regulations and to enable her to care for an elderly uncle. “I want to thank the DDA and those who contributed to the grants. Without both, some businesses might not have been able to stay open.”
Likewise, Jerrold Bivins of Jerrold’s Quality Flooring, 116 E. Main Street, Stockbridge, is grateful for the grant his business will be receiving. He’d like to use the funds toward some renovations to the building where he has lived and conducted business since 1991. COVID-19 had a profound impact on Bivins, not just during the 12 weeks his business was closed due to the state mandate, but more so with the loss of his wife, Lois, who died of COVID-19 in November 2020 after moving to a rehab facility to recover from a broken hip.
A member and past president of the SDDA, Bivins has long been an enthusiastic resident of Stockbridge, and he appreciates the support the COVID-19 Relief Fund received from the SDDA and donors. “Without the small businesses—the shops, the post office, the bars and restaurants—a town can quickly turn into a ghost town. Whatever Lois and I could do in our town, we did. Whatever I can buy here, I do. It’s important for people to try to support our town if they can.”
The state shutdown on events like gymnastics and volleyball tournaments has had a major impact on Judi Cook of BA Sports, 122 S. Clinton St., Stockbridge. She has been selling custom apparel at sporting events, beginning with gymnastics competitions, for 32 years.
Even with such an extensive business history under her belt, nothing prepared Cook for the impact state-mandated sporting restrictions would have on her business; BA Sports was basically closed down for ten months. During that time, she did her best to adapt to the situation by selling masks and plants and offering gardening services. Since January, BA Sports is back in business at sporting events, but it’s been challenging as these planned activities are sometimes canceled at the last minute due to the pandemic.
Cook plans to put her SDDA COVID-19 Relief Fund grant toward paying for architectural designs to repair an indoor wall at the Clinton Street building she owns.
Overwhelmed by the generosity of community members who contributed to the relief fund, Cook said, “It makes my heart feel so good. This was one of the nicest things the community has done for me. It has really made me feel like I belong here.”
The pandemic has not dampened Cook’s enthusiasm for future business potential in Stockbridge. She cites the support she has received through the SDDA and the local Chamber of Commerce and ends with, “I really think I can help make a big difference in Stockbridge. I am so excited for what’s coming.” She adds, “Stay tuned,” as she looks forward to ways she can give back to the community.
Ask Daryl Anderson, SDDA Chair, and any of the business owners who benefited from the Bridge to the Future COVID-19 Relief Fund, and they all credit Geri Uihlein, SDDA Vice Chair—and her enthusiasm—for much of the program’s success.
“Stockbridge is made up of good people, people who care,” stated Anderson, who added, “but in addition to the donors, this grant effort could not have been a success without all of Geri’s hard work. She put her heart and soul into this.”
Uihlein takes a much more modest stance, underscoring what a privilege it was for the SDDA to be able to help and support local business during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The true heroes are the folks who saw the benefit and value in helping to put together the monies that were needed to potentially keep Stockbridge businesses afloat,” Uihlein remarked. “Coming out of the pandemic, the Stockbridge Downtown Development Authority will strive to lock arms with our local businesses to continue to do what we can to help them be successful moving forward.”