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I’ll be honest: I’m sick and tired of thinking about COVID. I’m sick of talking about it, sick of reading about it, sick of all the social media noise and conspiracy theories and negativity and name-calling around it. It’s driving me crazy. It even had me paralyzed for a while. I wanted to do more than talk – I wanted to contribute, to help in some way. But what can one person really do in the face of something so hugely awful? I wish I had the answer. I wish I could launch a movement or an app or a campaign that would enable us all to come together in the way I know we are capable of doing. I feel like we’re begging to be brought together as a nation, even as a world. Alas, that isn’t happening.
And the scope of the need out there is so huge we have to do something. As I write this, 33,000,000 people have filed for unemployment in the past eight weeks. Some of those people will get their jobs back. Some won’t. And many of those that do will face reduced pay and benefits. That’s well over 15% of the adult population of the US, most of whom are already on the low end of the income scale. I was a kid in one of those families once. It’s scary.
Millions of small businesses have effectively shut down and lost almost all of their revenue. Some will reopen. Many won’t. And many of those that do will have a difficult road ahead. I run a small business. I’ve been on the edge of business survival before. It’s gut-wrenching to see everything you’ve worked for vaporized through no fault of your own. To have to make terrible choices you never thought you’d have to make. I don’t wish that on anyone.
Government benefits will help people and businesses for a while. But the pain is likely to last long beyond the time the benefits stop flowing. We’re going to need to come together to pull each other through this.
So I’m left wondering… what can one person do? But that’s a cop-out. I know one person can make a difference if they’re truly committed. Besides, I’m not all alone here. I have a wife and three kids. They’re in this with me. That’s five people. I also run a company that has 30 employees.
So now I’m up to 35 people. It may not be an army, but it’s a whole lot more than one person. I wouldn’t want to run into 35 people in a dark alley. Especially if they were motivated and bored from staying at home for two months.
So what can 35 motivated, bored people do? Challenge accepted
Here’s what Closed Loop did in March when this first hit:
- We gave each employee $100 to donate to a charity of their choice. We usually do this around the holidays every year. But people need help now. So we moved it up this year. People have donated to food banks, pet shelters and a variety of other worthy causes near to their hearts.
- Many of our employees used their paid volunteer days to help make masks and other PPE.
And here’s what we’ve done more recently:
- Donated $1000 to World Central Kitchen. Led by Chef Jose Andres, WCK has served up 6.5M meals for families in need provided by restaurants with capacity. Talk about one person being able to make a difference.
- Donated $1000 to Family Meal Sacramento. That’s 400 meals for families in need provided by local restaurants who need the revenue. Win-win.
- Donated $1000 to Save Small Sac. This is an initiative started by some friends of mine to provide direct financial assistance to local small businesses in need to help them survive and get back on their feet again.
- Donated $1000 to College Track. This organization takes a holistic approach to help underprivileged kids finish high school, get into college, and find good jobs. It’s led by a woman I admire and respect a great deal for her quiet but effective leadership.
- Donated $1000 to Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento. CRH gives kids dealing with bad situations at home a safe place to stay and learn. We’ve supported them for years, and will continue to do so.
- Donated $1000 to Operation Shields Up. This non-profit was started by the local maker community to produce face shields and other PPE for front-line health care workers using 3-D printers and other local manufacturing resources. It’s another great example of how one person can make a huge difference to rally a community together to accomplish big things. They’ve already donated tens of thousands of face shields to local hospitals.
- Donated $500 to My Mother’s Voice, a charity here in Roseville that helps kids and families in need. They’ve been partnering with local restaurants to provide meals to families most recently.
- Donated $500 to the Twin Lakes Food Bank, which helps families on the other side of Sacramento dealing with food insecurity. They’ve had huge demand for their drive-through grocery pickup service and had put the call out for support.
- Provided gift cards for local restaurants to some single moms who work in healthcare keeping us safe.
- Continue to make microloans via Kiva to individuals (primarily women) around the globe to help improve their standard of living via economic empowerment. We’ve made 208 loans so far and continue to reinvest and grow our support to help impoverished people around the globe. You can see our lender dashboard here.
- Taking care of each other – with Zoom check-ins, inviting (possibly offensive) comedians as mystery guests to a company Zoom meeting to lighten things up and give people a chance to laugh.
- Other donations.
Is that enough? Hell no. Is it going to make a difference for some people? Hell yes. And after weeks of sitting on the sidelines feeling largely helpless, it just feels so damn good to DO something.
Does it really make sense for a small business facing an uncertain future to spend this cash at this time? Fair question. Financially, no way. The prudent thing to do in this environment would clearly be to stockpile cash in case we end up needing it later. I see the wisdom in that. I generally pride myself on being fiscally conservative. But here’s the thing: We’ve been saving for a rainy day for a long time. And now it’s raining. Buckets. And while we’ve been impacted by this storm, others have it a whole lot worse than we do. So do we sit on our cash reserves and focus solely on preserving it for ourselves? Or do we take some of those reserves and do what we can to help others in need in the belief that a rising tide lifts all boats? We’ve opted for the latter.
I challenge other small business owners in a position to do so to do what they can as well. Individually we may not be able to do a lot. But if there’s one thing I hope we can all agree on, it’s that we’re all in this together. And together we can rise to the challenge.
Like many people, my initial reaction to COVID was fear, paralysis and a sense of loneliness. But here’s what I’ve come to believe: Fear is temporary, boldness is the cure for paralysis, and We are not alone. We’ve faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles before. If we can come together, this truly can be our finest hour.
What will you do?