Three local agencies have joined forces to support local businesses and help people in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. The “Barton Strong: Shop Small, Give Big,” campaign allows people to buy gift cards from Barton County businesses and every purchase will be matched with a donation that will be used to meet local needs.
The joint effort was announced Monday by Great Bend Chamber of Commerce President Megan Barfield, Golden Belt Community Foundation Executive Director Christy Tustin and United Way of Central Kansas Executive Director Gaila Demel during a live Chamber Chat on Facebook.
“The call to action will be for businesses in Barton County to sign up and participate in this gift card/certificate program,” Barfield said. The program pairs shopping locally with giving locally. “Shoppers can visit the website (https://www.greatbend.org/bartonstrong) and purchase gift cards from their favorite businesses while knowing their dollars spent are being matched by the Dorothy M. Morrison Foundation.”
The idea is simple, she said. When someone buys a gift card, a matching gift will be made to fulfill basic needs and shelter assistance for Barton County families affected by the crisis.
According to Barfield, the chamber will sell the gift cards/certificates on behalf of participating businesses and collect the money from the sales. The chamber will also run reports to show which businesses had sales and cut checks directly to those businesses, who will then contact customers for fulfillment.
“Together, with the Golden Belt Community Foundation and United Way of Central Kansas, we are encouraging our community to come together and rally around our Barton County businesses and those in need currently or who will be in need in the coming weeks due to the devastating impact of the coronavirus,” Barfield said. “We can help put money into (business owners') hands while matching dollars are going to help individuals.”
Although participating businesses must be chamber members, non-members can receive a 90-day courtesy chamber membership. The business must be located in Barton County and must already have a gift card/certificate program in place.
“Now, more than ever, we must work together to help one another,” Barfield said.
“Our goal (at GBCF) is to connect donators who care to causes that matter,” Tustin noted. “It’s not every day we can combine helping businesses and charities in the community at the same time.” Katherine Opie with the Dorothy M. Morrison Foundation was contacted and the foundation generously approved the first $10,000 in matching funds, but others are also welcome to donate, she said.
Demel noted that meeting community needs is the reason United Way agencies were created. United Way of Central Kansas and GBCF partners won’t be the only ones to benefit from the donations. “We’ve reached out to other nonprofit agencies with un-met needs,” she said. “(They include) several essential agencies at front lines right now – food assistance, child care, home services (and even) consumer shopping ... That target moves; it’s pretty fluid right now.”
Tustin agreed that the agencies are attempting to meet needs as they arise, while also addressing ongoing needs that haven’t gone away. So, individuals are always welcome to contact UWCF or GBCF. They have funds set up for disaster assistance, and donors can rest assured that their dollars are going to be used locally.
The www.greatbend.org/bartonstrong website answers frequently asked questions for businesses and gift-card purchasers.
The first business to participate in “Barton Strong” signed up within 15 minutes of the website’s launch, Barfield said. Similar programs have been successful in other communities, with Hutchinson raising over $115,000 (at rallyreno.org), she said. “We’re going to set up a tracker on our website so people can see how the numbers grow.” New businesses will be added daily.
Need help? Call 211
United Way of Central Kansas (uwck.org) continues to be a resource for those in the community, Executive Director Gaila Demel said.
“Just because we aren’t in the office, doesn’t mean that we aren’t available to help where we can,” the UWCK COVID-19 Response website notes. “211 is always a phone call away to direct you to services in our area. You can also visit 211.org or text your Zip Code to 898-211. This service is available 24/7 thanks to a partnership between UWCK and United Way of the Plains. You can also reach out to our office, leave a message and we will get with you as soon as we can. You can also reach out to us via email at email@example.com.”
The COVID-19 Response page also lists information about a variety of services.
Golden Belt Community Foundation (goldenbeltcf.org) also has information. GBCF is participating in Giving Tuesday Now – #GiveGoldenBelt.