Over $23,000 was raised through the Chestermere Business Relief Fund and will be distributed to 16 local businesses that applied for assistance after being negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While we didn’t raise as much money as we’d hoped after the GoFundMe fees, we will be distributing $23,338 to the 16 businesses,” said the organizer of the GoFundMe, Laurie Dunn.
Adding, “I think the reason that donations slowed to a trickle was the fact that once the government announced things were starting to open up, people thought everything was going to be OK. What they don’t understand is the monumental debt these small businesses took on just to hope they could open again and that their clients would return.”
Dunn was first inspired to organize the GoFundMe, as she owned a business for 14 years that was impacted by Mad Cow disease and SARS, and she wanted to do something to help the local businesses struggling.
“I can sympathize so much with these businesses that are forced to close. We weren’t forced to close, but the implications were devastating. I can sympathize with these people, as a former small business owner and entrepreneur at heart, I’ve spent many nights crying over where the next dollars were going to come from,” Dunn said.
Dunn knew Michelle Eldjarnson was the right person to help her with the Chestermere Business Relief Fund.
“It’s heartbreaking to see what’s happening to these guys, and short of I don’t know what else to do, other than hope they are standing at the end, and somehow, we can help them,” Eldjarnson said.
The GoFundMe was open for over a month, and throughout that time, Dunn and Eldjarnson received many stories from business owners of how COVID-19 has impacted them.
“It will be a long, hard fight when we are allowed to reopen. We have months and months and months of debt and frankly, repayment seems impossible. We are determined not to let our foundation members down. We will fight to rebuild but it is extremely difficult to remain positive all the time. Many sleepless nights have been had and many tears have been shed over the course of this global pandemic. We sincerely hope to turn those tears into something positive when we are done, and we mean truly done with restrictions. Rebuilding will be the most challenging time of our lives. We hope we have the opportunity to rebuild. We hope to meet new friends. We hope to once again open our arms and hearts to unfamiliar faces that become an unstoppable team,” is only part of one business COVID-19 story shared with Dunn and Eldjarnson.
To be eligible to receive funding, businesses have to be required to temporarily close or curtail operation due to April 2021 COVID-19 public health orders and be able to detail how the pandemic has affected the business, have experienced a reduction in revenue of at least 30 per cent as a result of the COVID-19 public health orders, and are open or plan to reopen as public health orders are lifted.
All applications have been reviewed by a Chestermere Business Relief Fund Committee of Dunn, Eldjarnson, Shannon Dean, and Alex Halat.
“Maybe this little bit will be able to help somebody not have to close their doors. It would be awful if we lose our small businesses, they are the backbone of our little city,” Eldjarnson said.
Adding, “During good times they help our community, and right now it’s time the community can reach out and help them.”