’m sure those reading the headline and looking at the byline will assume that when the Chamber refers to saving LOCALS that we’re talking about local businesses.
And while that’s true, there is a bigger mission at hand. Because it also involves mobilizing our community to save our local nonprofit organizations. It means saving local neighbors who may be unemployed or in need.
This intent was never clearer to me as we developed our SAVE OUR LOCALS campaign than a week ago when I attended an event for CAPTAIN Community Human Services. The event was to thank and honor Sue Catroppa, CAPTAIN’s current executive director, as she heads towards retirement at the end of 2020. The event was to recognize and thank Andy Gilpin, who has worked side-by-side with Sue for more than a decade at CAPTAIN and who will become the organization’s next executive director.
In advance of this event, I was honored to be asked to speak and to say a few words about Sue - - and Andy as it turned out. So as I thought about what I might say, I was reminded of something that Sue has said to me over and over again. Sue loves the work we do at the Saratoga County Chamber because we value, respect and promote the amazing work that all of our local nonprofits do to make our community a great place to live, work and play.
Take our SCORE program for instance. In 2018 and 2019, our local SCORE Chapter was one of the top five in the nation in terms of small business startups and jobs created with their help. Now with our SAVE OUR LOCALS effort, SCORE is adapting to provide totally free and completely confidential services to businesses AND nonprofits who need to adapt their business plan or model because of COVID 19. Both local businesses and local nonprofits are eligible to meet one-on-one virtually or in-person with one of our exceptional SCORE volunteers. All they have to do is call the Chamber to start the process.
To help businesses, our SAVE OUR LOCALS campaign will involve the Chamber and our partners promoting EVERY business — whether you are a member or not — who offers gift cards for sale online. In the spring, we set up a similar promotion and had links to local retail stores, spas and beauty salons, restaurants, florists, fitness facilities, and more.
Simultaneously, we will create a page on www.saratoga.org that promotes what our local nonprofits need. If our community responds and donates what local nonprofits need, this will indirectly mean that we’re helping everyone.
Local businesses can learn a lot from the way our nonprofits are run and have been led during the pandemic. In my remarks at the CAPTAIN event, I shared a story from early April when our local economy was shut down, and I called Sue to learn more about COVID 19’s impact on our community and to see how the Chamber might help.
Sue told me that demand for CAPTAIN’s food pantry and personal care items was up 50%. That day we spoke, she was trying to figure out how to help a young woman who was the victim of sex trafficking to find a place to stay with all of the stay-at-home restrictions in place. She said CAPTAIN also needed PPE for their employees to keep them safe.
Now CAPTAIN, like many nonprofits who work with vulnerable populations, was considered essential. So Sue also shared with me how they had established three separate teams of employees who were working shifts scheduled so they never crossed paths. She and her team had pivoted to this model to ensure their services could be sustained and people in need would always have access to what they needed. By doing this, the idea was that if one person contracted the virus that just one team would have to quarantine. That would leave the other two available to keep CAPTAIN open.
As businesses started to reopen, I shared what Sue did at CAPTAIN with many of the business owners who were asking me how to ensure they could stay open. The reality — as we’ve seen over and over again — is that it’s hard to eliminate the spread of COVID. The best we can do is minimize its spread. Sue had a model for operating a nonprofit and any business with this reality in mind.
So how can our community SAVE OUR LOCALS? Shop local. Dine out or take out local. Buy your supplies for your home or business at local stores. Hire local contractors and professional services. Think of making every purchase locally. If you must shop online, do so locally too. AND, donate your time, treasure and talent to local nonprofits. We’re all in this together. We will be Stronger Together.