by Elizabeth Turnbull
Rainier Valley community members raised more than $5,000 last week, which they distributed to six local businesses and one community project to show solidarity with local businesses suffering due to restrictions caused by the novel coronavirus.
“The whole goal of this is to really make sure the businesses know that we want them here,” Sarah Matik, who created the fundraiser, told the Emerald. “I think with Covid, you know it’s so isolating and you know they don’t have the regular customers coming in anymore and they don’t have people dining in anymore it can feel like, it just feels isolating.”
While Matik has been a community organizer and non-profit fundraiser for fifteen years, they independently came up with the idea for the fundraiser after seeing someone in Gig Harbor purchase gift cards and raffle them off to raise money for local businesses.
“Six hundred dollars isn’t gonna make or break a business but it does let them know that people in the community do care,” Matik said. “It’s creating an opportunity for the whole community to get involved and to see that they can contribute.”
Community members nominated Amy’s Merkato, Emma’s BBQ, Beach Bakery, Daryel Somali Women’s Wellness Project, Delish Ethiopian, City Teriyaki, and Cafe Avole to participate in the fundraiser and, for 24 hours, Matik collected funds for one business at a time, finally pooling together resources with around 20 percent of funds going directly to the business and the rest put towards buying gift cards.
Overall, the intent was to help businesses feel cared for and also to help them stay afloat.
“I want them all to be here when we emerge from this,” one donor, Megan Spencer, told the Emerald. “I was encouraged to see so many receive funding from the city’s small business fund, but it’s not enough. Hopefully more will be done.”
Amy O’Connell, owner of Beach Bakery, one of the businesses nominated by community members, says that she has been trying to stay positive.
“I’ve noticed more cars on the road and the community is just amazingly supportive and I feel very lucky, like I said, to have been a part of this fundraiser and everything, but it definitely is still very slow,” O’Connell told the Emerald.
While obtaining government aid has been a difficult process, O’Connell said buying from local businesses is a good way for community members to help out.
“[Try] getting take-out or gift cards if you are able,” Michelle Wolfe, another donor to the fundraiser, told the Emerald. “Promoting small businesses on social media or through your network, or even just walking by and waving and saying ‘hello’ can do wonders. It’s a good reminder that we are in this together.”
Elizabeth Turnbull is a recent journalism graduate with a passion for writing human-centric pieces. Some of her most recent work includes writing for the Jordan Times where she highlighted issues faced by refugees.
Featured image: The south wall and counter seating at Emma’s BBQ. The walls of Emma’s are hung with family photos and inspiration, as well as newspaper clippings from various family restaurants and the original Emma’s BBQ on Bremerton Island. (Photo: Chloe Collyer)