A small town giving back- Give the Gift of Clarion initiative generates over $7000 in a few days

Bridget Shileny

           The last couple of weeks have been tough on many individuals and sectors of society. Healthcare systems are trying to cope with a new, unknown illness. School children are figuring out ways to learn away from school while parents attempt to help them. And businesses face closures or restrictions that may put them in jeopardy. It is this last issue that the Clarion Chamber and local supporters have recently worked together to address.

            Starting last week, various state edicts have mandated that restaurants, bars, theaters, salons and more small businesses must close or, at best, just offer carry out or delivery services. Almost as soon as the first order was issued, people and entities started working together to help the businesses that would be affected. Ways to help took many forms across small Iowa towns, but one that has been very successful locally, was a recent initiative called “Give the Gift of Clarion.”

            Late last week, this idea was presented by Clarion Chamber Director Ali Disney. She announced a promotion that would offer people gift cards to Clarion businesses with an extra perk. Using the Chamber and their website as a go-between and facilitator, consumers could pay $20 and receive a $30 gift card. How would this be possible? Disney explained that the Chamber would seek sponsors to cover the extra $10.

            The idea, according to Disney, is to help businesses as soon as possible. Interested buyers just fill out a form that they reach through the Chamber’s website, clarioniowa.com. People can choose to buy up to 5 gift cards from any Clarion business and are then directed to a PayPal page to pay. The Chamber will then make the gift card purchases and mail them out to buyers. Though people may not be able to use a gift card for a while, the business will see the revenue almost right away. And of course, consumers get a good deal with “free” money on their gift card.

            Disney acknowledged that she borrowed the gift card idea from the Clear Lake Chamber. In only three days, that town facilitated the selling of over $25,000 in cards to local businesses. Disney had a hunch that Clarion and the surrounding residents could rally behind a similar promotion in this area.

            And Disney was absolutely correct! First, she was overwhelmed by sponsors that volunteered their funds to make gift cards available. Within 24 hours, she had 15 businesses and individuals contribute to Give the Gift of Clarion. Not surprisingly, these groups were happy to help. Sherri O’Brien both works at a business, First State Bank, that pledged support and contributed privately with her husband Pat. O’Brien emphasized, “Pat and I are thankful to be able to share in the support of our community. First State Bank is also committed to our customers and to Clarion. We are blessed in so many ways by our small businesses and together we will stand strong.”

            The businesses, though they might not have been able to see the increased business firsthand, quickly found themselves with many interested customers. By the beginning of this week, Disney reported that 244 gift cards have been sold to 31 Clarion businesses.  She was more than pleased. “That is $7,320 that will be put back into the Clarion community in only a few days,” she said.

            Locals businesses were appreciative of the community backing. Maggie and Danny Solis, owners of grounded, emphasized, “We are extremely grateful and humbled by the amount of support that the community has shown us during this time.  It is only through this support that we, along with the other local businesses, will be able to remain open through this time.”

            The team at Chappys agreed with this sentiment. They stressed, “Every little bit helps during this difficult time in our industry.  Running a small business under 'normal' conditions is difficult, and at this point we're just trying to survive.  Ali's campaign through the chamber has been fabulous and very appreciative. We can't say enough about the people who are donating funds that made this campaign possible.”

            And all signs indicate that Give the Gift of Clarion is far from over. Disney reported several more sponsors volunteered funds after the first wave. This generosity made over 100 more gift cards possible, though they’re likely to be snapped up quickly. Luckily, Disney looks forward to keeping up the initiative as long as interest holds.

            Though the tough times may continue for a while to come, businesses are hopeful that the community will continue to offer that helping hand. Kammy and Curt Nelson, owners of Fuel, stated, “We have a great community in and around Clarion. It's a great place to do business.” They are confident that with generosity and cooperation, everyone will make it through to better days. The Nelsons added, “Any time things get tough for anyone, everyone steps up. We will all get through this together like we always do.”

            City councilman Andy Young, whose business Sumners Insurance also donated to Give the Gift of Clarion, said the success of the campaign is indicative of the great place that Clarion is. He stated, “I expect to hear more stories about the residents of Clarion helping those in need, because that represents the essence of who we choose to be as a community.  This city and its businesses, organizations, and individuals will choose not only now, but always to help those in need, and it makes me proud to live here.”

            If people are interested in purchasing gift cards through “Give the Gift of Clarion,” they can visit http://www.clarioniowa.com/give-the-gift-of-clarion. Sponsors can contact Disney at the chamber to donate to the initiative.




Wright County Monitor

P.O. Box 153
107 2nd Avenue N.E.
Clarion, IA 50525
Phone: 515-532-2871
FAX: 1-800-340-0805
Email: cmonitor@mchsi.com

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