It felt to me as though the days in March & April drug on forever, and yet here we are and it's May 21. For me it's hard to believe how quickly May has gone. All the while, our team is on week 10 of this work-from-home/school-from-
Some of them have reopened, some of them are yet to reopen, some of them will encourage or mandate new policies such as mask wearing for employees and customers and some won't. As we continue to experience new highs and lows of this pandemic, I want to urge each of us to remember to be kind and give grace.
While everyone is in the midst of the pandemic, we are all coping with it in different ways. The stress and stressors are different for each and every one of us, and they are very real. Restaurants and retailers are as stressed about how they accommodate a new normal as many of you are about going to these establishments. Some people want to wear facemasks while others don't. It's okay to not agree wholeheartedly about the 'right' way to reopen but please try to remember to give grace during this time. Give grace to the essential healthcare workers, to the cashier at the grocery store, to the facilities teams, to your children, to the restaurant worker who started their first shift back to a very new experience, to yourself, and everyone in between.
Be patient, be positive and be kind.
For years, we have recognized the first week of May as National Small Business Week, National Nurses Day and Teacher Appreciation Week. It's fair to say that 'thank you' to each of these groups of individuals takes on new meaning. Does it seem ironic that each of these have been magnified as a result of the pandemic?!
As a parent of young children, who has been working from home for 7+ weeks while simultaneously homeschooling, I can say without a doubt that while I've always appreciated teachers for the incredible work they do to educate our future, that appreciation is taken to a whole new level this year. To all the teachers in and around Grinnell, and across the state and country, THANK YOU for all you do on a 'normal' day let alone these times of 'new normal'.
Nurses...where do I start? Putting yourselves on the frontlines of this pandemic every single day to keep our friends, families and neighbors as safe as possible. THANK YOU! I believe we have some pretty amazing nurses at each of our healthcare institutions which has only been exemplified over the last several weeks. We appreciate all you do, day in and day out, pandemic or not, and are incredibly grateful for your tenacity and courage to keep going every day.
And finally, our small businesses. While Small Business Week has technically been postponed and will be celebrated at a later time this year, we're recognizing you anyway! You all have endured so much change and volatility over the last several weeks, and you continue to persevere - THANK YOU! We cannot wait until the day you are all fully open again, and while we know that may look different (masks, counter shields, more hand sanitizer, etc) know that we are anxiously awaiting being able to support all of our small businesses in person again! Small businesses have historically employed the majority of Americans, and while we know many layoffs have had to happen at small businesses as a result of the pandemic, we also believe our small businesses will continue to respond in resilient ways and will grow as a result of these challenges. Small businesses are the heart of a community, and we are happy to support them in a multitude of ways.
Join me this week as we say THANK YOU to all our teachers, nurses and small business owners. You're all amazing!
p.s. As businesses consider reopening strategies, we want to help connect you to PPE! If you represent a business, would you take two minutes to complete this survey?
Already a month has passed since we launched the Grinnell Small Business Relief Fund with the help and support from our colleagues at Grinnell Mutual and Grinnell College. Since that time, the fund has continued to grow from financial support from many of you and we are excited to share that the first round of funding has already been distributed. Almost forty small businesses were assisted through this fund in some capacity and while we know it will not make them whole (nothing will), we are hopeful it will help them be able to keep the doors open post-pandemic.
“The GSBR was the first funding made available to us. We applied for it immediately and received a grant that went towards our utility bill,” said Alicia Blankenfeld, co-owner of Total Choice Shipping and Printing in downtown Grinnell. They then found a business opportunity to help support the fund that helped them. If you haven't already, you can purchase a yard sign or decal to show your community spirit and resiliency while also supporting the Small Business Relief Fund to help businesses just like Total Choice and so many others in our community; 40% of each purchase will be donated directly back to the fund.
If you find yourself in a position to help support our small businesses via this fund, monetary donations can be made here. And if you'd like to show your Grinnell pride at the same time, you can purchase some of the swag to also help support our small businesses!
We appreciate you doing all you can to help support our local businesses and organizations during these uncertain times. It truly takes a village, and we have one of the best in Grinnell!
p.s. Our hearts go out to St. Francis Manor, their residents and staff this week with news of a COVID outbreak. We know our community is already rallying around them in incredible ways, and we want you all to know you have our continued support in these challenging times!
By now it is likely that many of you have started receiving stimulus checks being issued as a way to increase economic support during COVID-19. At the same time, many of our small businesses are struggling. Some of them have been shut down completely, others have components of their businesses available but all of them are in the same boat and have been negatively impacted by this virus. As you receive your stimulus check, whether this week or next, next month or after, I would encourage each of us as Grinnellians to consider how that money has the ability to generate positive waves in our community. If each of you reading this note took just 5% (which may amount to more for some folks than others) of what you receive and spend it with a local business to support them or one of the ideas mentioned below, that would equate to nearly $300,000 to our Grinnell community! Will this make them whole? Of course not, but it may be the ticket to keep them from having to close their doors post-pandemic.
You can support many businesses through the Grinnell Gift Card program(purchase a gift card now to spend later!), or by making a donation to the Grinnell Small Business Relief Fund, a program our office is administering to aid Grinnell businesses in the form of small grants. If you're still not sure of the best way to support a local business, we encourage you to reach out and ask them directly!
Additionally, there are a number of efforts underway to support fellow community members and nonprofit organizations including the Grinnell Food Coalition and the Nonprofit Emergency Relief Fund. These two collaborative efforts are raising dollars to support individuals who may be experiencing hunger through food vouchers to be spent at area grocery stores and raising dollars to help support the nonprofit organizations that have, or are likely to have, challenges as a result of COVID, respectively.
Please consider the various ways you can stimulate our local economy and support our neighbors in the process. And when you do, please share it via social using #GRINNtogether while tagging the Chamber so we can help spread the positive community collaborations occurring on a daily basis.
p.s. You can also play Grinnell BINGO while you pass your days. Download this game to find creative ways to help support and uplift our community!
I'm pretty sure I started last week's newsletter with 'Wow, what a week!' but it feels pertinent to start this week's with the same. I hope you are all holding up okay as we make daily, sometimes hourly, adaptations into a 'new normal' as a result of COVID-19. So much has happened since we sent our regular communication just a week ago, and I am certain that much more will be different before next week's newsletter.
With this ever-changing situation it seems as though negativity is beginning to take hold. As we see positive things happening, we want to ask that you use #GRINNtogether to share stories. Show our business owners, community leaders, healthcare professionals, public safety teams, store clerks, and so many more that we are in this together, and we support Grinnell. Plus it just brings a grin to your face, right? At least it does to mine, and I'm confident we could all use a grin right about now!
Yesterday we hosted a Facebook Live event with member, Jennifer Weinman Photography, who primarily works from home AND homeschools two children. With so many people making a shift to working from home due to the virus, we felt it was timely to ask her for some tips and tricks! If you didn't catch it live, you can stream it here (skip ahead 2.5 min to start). Allow me to share a few of my favorites from our virtual time together: batching work -- attempt to pull like-projects together and work on them at the same time; identify a schedule -- especially if you'll have kids around while working from home, make sure you create a schedule (and let your kids help!) that will allow all of you to have productive time; and finally, remember to give grace - to yourself and to those on virtual meetings. Everyone has a new normal, and it's important to give each other grace as we navigate these days and weeks to come.
p.s. We launched a Grinnell Eats graphic on social earlier today. It's a great resource listing our local eateries, their hours and delivery methods.
Wow, what a week! Certainly one that will be marked in history for many reasons. Our team has been working hard to share information, convene (virtual) meetings, and discuss ways our community can continue to plan and prepare for the quickly evolving challenges due to COVID-19. While we continue to work on longer-term efforts, I can assure you there's a message I've been preaching already and will certainly continue as long as needed: there has never been a better time to support local businesses.
Many of our Grinnell businesses will be impacted greatly as a result of COVID-19; please do what you can to support them if you are able. If you don't regularly eat out, perhaps you'll consider it more in the days and weeks to come. If you're not comfortable going to the restaurant, remember that take-out is always a great option as well! Perhaps it's time for that new pair of shoes you've been considering, or the extra morning donuts or latte. Instead of heading out of town for your next vacation, consider a staycation exploring Grinnell and the surrounding area. Our small businesses need our support now more than ever, and I hope you will join me in doing what you can to support each and every one of them.
p.s. We've been busy brainstorming a new on-the-go business idea for Grinnell -- if you're interested in helping to be a part of a possible solution to help small businesses, please reply to this email!
Have you heard of the 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count program? This initiative, led by the Healthiest State Initiative and the Iowa Department of Public Health and part of the nationally recognized 5-2-1-0 program, is helping create healthier environments in educational settings, health care practices, workplaces, and communities - the places where Iowa families live, learn, work, and play.
Four numbers - one way to stay healthy! 5-2-1-0 calls for the following every day:
Grinnell was recently awarded a $30,000 grant through the Iowa Department of Public Health and has spent several months engaging community partners to identify projects specifically related to at least one of the 5-2-1-0 focuses noted above. Now that these projects have been identified and verified, partners are now beginning to implement some of these projects which include installing sensory pathways (creative pathways designed to help children build connections to sight, touch, sound, etc) in our elementary buildings, purchasing of portable playground equipment to use in various parks and events this summer, and taste testing in elementary schools, to name a few.
Earlier this week, the Grinnell-Newburg School District held a 'Taste Test Tuesday' in an effort to get kids to try new fruits or vegetables. Dietitians and teachers lead some of the discussions with youth, encouraging them to try something new. Much to their surprise, some of these students learned that they really do like bell peppers even though they hadn't been too excited about it prior! Through the partnership with the School District, these 'taste tests' are also able to be extended to the full menu, allowing students to eat the fruit or vegetable again as part of school lunches.
There are many great health-related projects taking place in our community, and we're excited to help share information as we work collaboratively to #buildahealthygrinnell with our #healthychoicescount.
Don't worry, I'm not talking air conditioning just yet -- if I wanted that I'd just take a step out to the arctic blast this morning! Today we're talking AC as in AmeriCorps -- did you know that Grinnell has had a very robust AmeriCorps partnership for the past several years? Largely spearheaded by Grinnell College and in collaboration with the Grinnell Education Partnership, the effort integrates several different organizations and partners from the Chamber of Commerce to the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation, Grinnell Regional Medical Center, Drake Community Library, LINK, Grinnell College Museum of Art, Grinnell-Newburg School District, Grinnell Community Early Learning Center, Claude & Dolly Ahrens Foundation and so many more, in an effort to support kids and families in Grinnell. The program aims to give students a strong start so they can succeed early in school and ties with the Campaign for Grade Level Reading. Locally, the program truly is a collaborative effort to establish various programs in many different facets, and have supported many great programs including healthy readers, summer programming, addressing skills gaps and after-school care.
Cut-out hearts of what we love about the Partnership.
Our team participated in a meeting of the Grinnell Education Partnership just last week to talk about accomplishments, while also taking a look ahead to the future, and I have to share some of the remarkable successes as a result of this partnership. Just in the past year, the Partnership has been recognized by the International Town Gown Association (ITGA) with a Presidential Excellence Award for Volunteerism, a Pacesetter Award from the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, and Outstanding Nonprofit Collaboration Award from Volunteer Iowa. And while awards are rewarding and exciting to share, what may be more exciting are that reading test scores of our youth are improving, school attendance has improved, and children are entering kindergarten more 'school ready' than they have in the past, in part due to this collective impact initiative that is working to build sustainable models and programs.
AmeriCorps members help supplement the work happening in many of the aforementioned agencies around their work on the campaign, and have truly added so much to each of these programs. Over the past five years, more than 150 AmeriCorps members have been placed, and 300+ volunteers have contributed nearly 1,000 hours of volunteer time, and they're looking to expand that number even more by placing approximately 35 individuals this summer! If you or someone you know might be looking for a summer opportunity to help Grinnell's youth, this is a great one - you can find details here!
When you think of tourism in Iowa, you likely think about warm summer days, a bit unlike today! While most tourism takes place in warmer months in Iowa, smaller communities often see a tourism boost in different ways. The next several weeks will bring an influx of visitors to our community thanks to so many activities and events being held in Grinnell.
Not only sports tourism, but arts and culture, are drawing thousands of people to our community over the course of the year. This weekend alone, there are many events bringing visitors to our lovely community, including the Midwest Conference Swimming & Diving Championships at Grinnell College's Natatorium. And if you've never been to that facility, you need to check it out - especially on a day like today when it's so cold outdoors! If you check the activity calendars at the high school, college, and Ahrens Park, you'll see how many other weekends are filled with events that will bring visitors to our community.
These events have tremendous economic impact on our community as well - these visitors are putting money into our local economy by purchasing food, going shopping, filling up at the gas station and staying in our hotels.
Do me a favor over the next few weekends, and share the love (remember, today is Valentine's Day!) as you greet these visitors with a friendly 'hello'. After all, if they have a good experience in our community, they'll be more likely to return for a visit when they have more time to enjoy all Grinnell has to offer.
p.s. Our Annual Celebration will take place March 11, and we're looking for your best experiences over the past year. Please consider submitting your nominations online here and purchase your tickets for the event here!