During the best, the worst or the most challenging of times, I have been consistently awed and amazed by one thing: the generosity of small businesses in our community. The past six months have been a living example of this dedication. Perhaps no one was hit harder than the myriad of family-owned restaurants, individual franchise owners and service-based businesses in our area. The shutdown and the restrictive opening guidelines that followed are certainly among the most challenging chapters in their small business stories. My heart went out to them… How would they survive?
And yet, facing an uncertain future and bleak financial outlook, many still found ways to help—even in their greatest hour of need:
- When the abrupt closings left surplus products on their shelves, they found ways to donate. That includes people like Stefan Zeller of Avanti’s, who brought a truckload of food to help our team at Children’s Home, and Phil Caplis, owner of Two25 and Golden Corral, who offered over $5,000 of food for the kids at Youth Farm.
- When staff faced layoffs or furloughs, they found ways to utilize their skills. Becky Rossman of Neighborhood House experienced this generosity as chefs and staffers from the Peoria Civic Center, Edge, Kemp 208 and Suite Fire Bar & Grille volunteered in their kitchen and drove meals to people in need.
- No matter where sales were at, they initiated incentives for nonprofits. This includes Matt and Courtney Rixner at The Fox Pub and Travis Mohlenbrink from Spice Hospitality Group, who held events that returned a percentage of sales back to local nonprofits. Employees from other small businesses like Ipsen (in Cherry Valley, Illinois) and Simantel Group made monetary donations.
The ingenuity and drive of these small business owners is commendable. These are the folks who time and time again underwrite food costs at Children’s Home and other nonprofit events, provide in-kind donations, and contribute unique items and experiences for fundraising auctions. I know that I and other nonprofit leaders in the community do not take it for granted. This kindness has a ripple effect as well. Our community shows its appreciation in return by ordering takeout, buying gift cards and promising to come back once things return to normal.
I’m at the helm of one of the oldest and largest locally-based social service organizations in the Tri-County Area, and fundraising is a never-ending job, as with all nonprofits. We are endlessly grateful for the support and gifts we receive from all of our donors. But the heart of our support is our community—the people, families and especially small businesses that minimize “red tape” in order to maximize real and meaningful benefits for the 1,700 children and families Children’s Home assists each month. PM