At a time when many small businesses are struggling to survive amidst shutdowns and economic decline, others are stepping up to lend a helping hand to their fellow business owners. Inspired by Grogg’s Home Services generous gift card matching promotion last month, West Virginia Central Federal Credit Union answered to call with a challenge of their own.

“We watched as Grogg’s Heating and Cooling provided an opportunity for people to partner with them to make a greater impact for local businesses and we wanted to answer their call to continue the trend!” said the credit union in a statement on their website. WV Central Federal Credit Union named their promotion the “Give Love Challenge” and like the Grogg’s Shop Local promotion, they committed to matching gift card purchases up to $50 each.

“A huge part of our mission is to take care of those we serve and be part of whatever is going on in our community,” said Allie Bennett, Marketing Strategist for WV Central FCU. “Credit Unions are hyper-local financial institutions, and each one serves a certain area – we have been in Parkersburg for almost 51 years and just in the last three have expanded into the five counties that surround it and this campaign was a perfect way to reach out to these businesses – whether they are members or not – and let them know we care and we are here for them.”

In addition to doubling the impact for local businesses through gift card matching, WV Central FCU also wanted to help those in the community facing food insecurity. In addition to matching the gift card amount, the credit union made a dollar-for-dollar donation to local food banks.

We received a lot of heartfelt phone calls from businesses thanking us for encouraging such a wonderful boost for their businesses.

“We had already started giving to three local food banks we work with regularly during COVID-19 and when we were discussing the Give Love Challenge, we knew we wanted to add our own spin to what Grogg’s had done,” said Bennett. “It was an immediate and unanimous decision to add that component.”

The response from the community was one of overwhelming support. With a goal of $25,000 in community purchases, WV Central FCU met the goal in 1 hour and 45 minutes and then had over 60 join a waitlist that they decided to fulfill from their marketing funds. “We knew it would go fast but we were blown away by that,” said Bennett. “Watching the submissions pour in was awesome – seeing the names of local businesses and knowing that every card would be doubled. We received a lot of heartfelt phone calls from businesses thanking us for encouraging such a wonderful boost for their businesses.”

Gift card purchases from the community supported 105 local businesses, including The Bodega, Bolt & Quarters Quilt Shop, DaVinci’s Italian Kitchen, Back to Basics Log Cabin, Marietta Brewing Company, and Wit & Whimzy.

For Jennifer Wright, owner of The Bodega in Vienna, WV, the support provided through the promotion was a blessing. “It was the highest single day that we’ve ever had in our one year of being in business,” said Wright. “To stay in business, those numbers have to matter – but for me, the greater impact was the way we felt seen and cared for and supported in ways that will last in our memory for a very long time.”

Wright said gestures like these are proof that difficult times have the ability to bring out the best in our community. “I have a feeling we will be talking for a long time about when we had just celebrated one year of being in business and the very same day closed our doors for a time because of COVID-19 and how other businesses rallied around to help us make it through. We honestly can’t say thank you loud enough or enough times.”

Laura Pytlik, owner of Wit & Whimzy in Marietta, also expressed gratitude for WV Central FCU’s commitment to supporting local businesses. “The generous offer by the WV Central Federal Credit Union created excitement and community support for so many local small businesses,” she said. “It was a much appreciated boost during a difficult time, and we are looking forward to seeing our customers return when they redeem their gift certificates.”

It’s as simple as buying your Mother’s Day gift from a local shop instead of Amazon.

Community is one of WV Central FCU’s core values, said Bennett. “We want to be a place that provides a positive influence for our employees, members, and the community.” The Give Love Challenge was a way for the credit union to partner with the community to make a meaningful impact during a time of great need for many.

“A simple purchase means so much to these local businesses right now,” said Bennett. “It’s as simple as buying your Mother’s Day gift from a local shop instead of Amazon.” Bennett also stressed the need to support local nonprofits during this time. “They need financial support as well as volunteers, so we encourage finding something that’s important to you and getting involved.”

While there’s still a great deal of uncertainty felt by businesses of every sector as states begin to reopen, our local business community can take comfort in knowing that they are not alone. Wright summed it up best. “It feels a little bit like when you were on the playground and your older sibling watched someone trying to take you out and stepped in to say, ‘Oh no, not on my watch!’ Except the bully wasn’t a person – it was way bigger than any of us and without some help, many of us would have been taken out. Then, just at the right time, someone says ‘I think I can help.’”

Here’s to all those answering the call to help, in ways big and small.