BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - In three short weeks, Business Aid: Berkeley Heights raised over $63,000, to date, and has provided aid to 45 small businesses in the first round of relief aid.
Dr. Patrick Smith, President of the Berkeley Heights Business & Civic and the chairman of the emergency relief program was thrilled with the community's response to give a "hand up from the residents of Berkeley Heights to help preserve the town, and the businesses that they know and love."
“My heart bursts with joy to provide $45,000 in emergency relief grants to 45 local businesses in 16 days since we launched this relief program," said Smith. "All I can say is that I love everyone, our volunteer team who has worked so hard, our caring local residents who have given so generously, all the local groups who have helped promotes this in such a short time, I’m speechless and humbled."
Business Aid: Berkeley Heights was formed to raise funds to help local small businesses during a time of unprecedented economic and public health crises resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Berkeley Heights resident Sheryl Manfreda reached out to Smith about creating this community fund to help local businesses. She was empathetic to the economic stress on small businesses caused by the pandemic. "Business owners are struggling to pay their rent, payroll, utilities and taxes. Our local small businesses need our help now more than ever,” said Manfreda.
With the boost of a $25,000 matching challenge from the Connell Company, the community rallied during the National Day (week) of Giving, resulting in $21,000 of donations. The Connell Company decided to go above the dollar for dollar match and donate the full $25,000.
The fund was created with the hope that small grants would help with short-term business expenses until other State and Federal grants and loans could be obtained. However, State and Federal grants and loans are not necessarily the answer for all small businesses, and not all businesses are receiving funding from the CARES Act or Unemployment. "The facts are — we’re not getting what we need," said Cheri Pertesis, owner of Anything Floral. "Unemployment is a complete disaster, government loans and grants have extremely detailed stipulations — they almost seem like a giant trap.... and the Governor shows no indication of opening us up soon." While curbside pick-up is available -- small businesses are a long way off from business as usual.
"Those receiving these grants are so grateful in a time of desperation," said Smith. "I have heard from so many of these small businesses owners who are the backbone of our downtown that this program may just help them keep their doors open and more importantly has given them hope in a hopeless situation." Smith added, "One owner of a mom and pop town icon said upon learning of the relief grant, 'God bless you Dr Smith and God bless Berkeley Heights!' I think that says it all, God Bless BH for always standing tall when someone needs help!”
The Business Aid: Berkeley Heights fund continues to accept donations to provide grants to the local small businesses with a second round of much-needed grants. A tax-deductible contribution can be made by visiting http://www.berkeleyheightsbusinesscivic.com/.
In addition, the Rotary Club of Berkeley Heights is sponsoring a Virtual Silent Auction event to be held later this month to benefit Business Aid: Berkeley Heights. They are asking for your help during this time to donate a restaurant or local business gift certificate, your season tickets to future sporting or cultural event, a foursome for a round of golf, or any other appropriate gift of value. These donations will be packaged with other virtual silent auction prizes used to help raise money for these grants.
If you are interested in helping, please email your specific donation offering to: BHbusinessandcivic@gmail.com; Attention Rotary Club Virtual Silent Auction. Send emails no later than Wednesday, May 20, 2020.
Click here for an updated business directory, prepared by the Berkeley Heights Downtown Beautification Committee and Berkeley Heights Communications Committee.