BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - It's real. No one knows the pandemic distress on business more than Shane and Duane Connell of The Connell Company, who have shuttered the doors of their Embassy Suites by Hilton Berkeley Heights since March 16, the day Gov. Murphy closed non-essential businesses to slow the spread of coronavirus -- with no signs of when they can re-open.

So, when Shane Connell, a member of the Berkeley Heights Economic Development Committee, sat on a Mayor initiated Zoom conference call to have the conversation about how COVID-19 has affected the small businesses of Berkeley Heights, it was an eye-opener.

There are businesses that are struggling to pay their rent and utility expenses with lack of incoming revenue while their businesses were forced closed at no fault of their own. Many small business owners did not receive the federal loans that were promised and are digging into personal savings to help their business survive this economic crisis.

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Business Aid: Berkeley Heights was set up to be that lifeline to save these small businesses from possibly closing for good.

"On the call, hearing how COVID-19 has affected Berkeley Heights and the local businesses was overwhelming," said Shane Connell. "We all hope this ends soon and life can go back to normal. But if the local businesses are not around post COVID-19, our community will never be normal again." 

"The Connell Company is committed to supporting Berkeley Heights and the local community and want to help out in any way that we can," he said.

The Connell Company has generously offered a challenge in support of National Day of Giving [Giving Tuesday] by matching $25,000 of donations made to the Business Aid: Berkeley Heights emergency relief fund through Wednesday, May 6 at noon. "We hope our contribution to the Business Aid: BH fund will help the community get through this period and also help bring awareness for the need to support this worthy cause," said Connell. This is the first of two $25,000 challenges the Connells have committed to the relief fund.

"We have been a proud Berkeley Heights business for over 35 years, and some of our employees and Connell Park’s office tenant employees live in town. All our tenants and hotel guests greatly enjoy the conveniences and services of downtown Berkeley Heights. As a community, if one struggles, we all struggle," said Connell.  

Dr. Patrick Smith, President of the Berkeley Heights Business & Civic, hopes to have the Business Aid:BH grants committee, made of up of Berkeley Heights residents [who are leaders in their respective fields], issue the first round of emergency relief grants on Wednesday. "We are thrilled with the generosity of The Connell Company and hope the residents of Berkeley Heights will continue to respond. Together, we could make emergency relief grants to 40 small businesses -- our neighbors and friends, who, we all know and love, make it through May financially healthier. A healthy small business community helps make Berkeley Heights the special community we all love," said Dr. Smith. "We are in this together and no donation amount is too small." 

To learn more about Business Aid: Berkeley Heights, visit the BHB&C website http://www.berkeleyheightsbusinesscivic.com/.