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Chamber continues to aid local businesses

Photo provided The Toys for Children drive through event in Beverly was a huge success this past Christmas and Muskingum Valley Beverly Waterford Chamber of Commerce Board President Sam Skinner said it’s a good thing that came out of the pandemic. Because the event was so successful, Skinner said the chamber will bring back the event in the future.

Although small businesses were negatively impacted by the pandemic, the Muskingum Valley Beverly Waterford Chamber of Commerce and the community continue to promote and help local businesses.

The Marietta Times spoke with Sam Skinner, chamber board president, to discuss the chamber’s impact on businesses.

Q. Times: What are some of the ways the chamber helped local businesses that may have struggled during the 2020 pandemic?

A. Skinner: At the chamber, early on we recognized this was going to be an issue for some businesses in our area.

For our members, we reached out and we started a pretty aggressive program to help those who we knew who would be affected a lot to help them get through the tight times.

We did grants that were available. Five businesses did receive grants from us of $1,500.

To help the whole area, we did advertising in the paper, radio ads and billboards just asking people (to be) aware the businesses in our area were open.

In total there we spend about $16,500 towards that program in helping members and the general public. Any time you can promote your area (and) our businesses to people outside of your area, it’s great for our area.

We also did our BW bucks, a program that is 100% money that goes to our business. If anybody bought $20 in BW bucks, the chamber gave them an extra $5. It bought more money into their businesses. This past year, we’ve had over $10,000 worth of BW bucks bought.

That program has ended. We might bring it back again but it was a very successful program for us. Basically it’s just like a gift card you buy, it’s from us, they’re good at our participating members. We know it’s going to be spent locally.

Q. Times: Why was it important to show them support?

A. Skinner: Our businesses in this area have done nothing but support us, in some of the cases, for years and years. Now when there’s times when they might need us to support them, that’s the best time to do it. As a chamber, we’ve come together to do as much as we can to prop up our businesses, especially in trying times.

Q. Times: With the cancellation of some traditional events, what hopes do you have for 2021 and possibly bringing those back?

A. Skinner: As you know, we usually do a monthly luncheon, that’s the biggest thing we do. It brings our members together and just being able to network and get conversations, that has been lost this past year.

It’s very tough to do with the regulations from the health department. It’s just hard for us to do the luncheon.

We hope to bring those back this year. We just had a meeting this past week with our directors, we are in a holding pattern on that. We will get back together here in early spring and see where we’re at. We thought it was one of the best things we can do with our businesses, (to) network with local government and politicians. We hope to bring that back.

We were able to support our legion auxiliary. This year, we did a Toys for Children drive through in the big lot there in Beverly and we had huge success with it. That looks like something that will probably continue for years to come hopefully. It was such a success and we got to see people that we don’t normally see.

This brought in a lot of the outside community to us and it was just a great thing that worked well for the Legion Auxiliary. (It was) sponsored by our gas powered plant, (who) really helped out a lot. That was a great thing that came out of losing the luncheons. It’s such a good cause. That’s something that will stay with us. (We’re) still out there trying to do some things for our community and for our members.

Q. Times: What are some of the chamber’s goals for the year?

A. Skinner: We usually have at this time do a drive where we’re going around and meeting with potential new members. Now a whole lot of local businesses aren’t being sprouted up (so) that’s a tougher thing to do. (We’re) going to be doing our golf outing and spring fling the first weekend of May. (We’ll be) promoting Home for the Holidays. We’ll still be doing that (and this) summer, Christmas in July. We couldn’t have last year, hopefully it will be something we can roll back out.

We just want to be able to have our yearly dinner where we recognize some of these businesses who have done a great job. It might get pushed back to the fall, we’ll see how that goes. It just isn’t the same having a big dinner over zoom and reward our members for doing a fantastic job of keeping their businesses going, it’s a chore right now.

Q. Times: Tell me about some of the ways the community has come together to support local businesses.

A. Skinner: We had several organizations that went out and bought these BW bucks this past summer and spread them out between some of our essential workers that needed to continue to work. That was a way they used them to reward some of the people in our neighborhood. We’re just trying to get form day to day.

There are businesses out there who are struggling. There are people in our community who are no doubt going out and spending money locally. Hairdressers and sit-down restaurants were affected. Once they were able to go back out, things have really picked up for quite a few of them. It is a tough time of year (and) these businesses are trying to get through this tough time of the year. Hopefully our local people will step up and continue to help them out.

Candice Black can be reached at cblack@newsandsentinel.com.

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