As the parent of a child, my heart breaks for local businesses who are struggling and simply hanging on right now due to the effects of COVID-19. These small business owners are our neighbors, our friends, our charity event and fundraiser supporters, and the lifeblood off our communities.

For example, when my wife and I held a fundraiser for my son in September of 2018, it was our local bar and grill that stepped up for us and did everything for free – the setup, the band, the venue, everything.

Right now, as I write this, that same restaurant is delivering meals to hospitals every night. When I ordered takeout and thanked the business owner Al for everything he’s done for our community and for my family, he was in tears. He’s down to just himself and the cook right now, and still he’s doing all he can to give back right now.

Al is just one example of so many local business owners who are opening their hearts and providing resources to essential workers and staying open because he knows that people need to eat. Not everyone is able to cook every meal or fend for themselves, and I am so grateful to all local businesses who are helping our communities.

Now that I’ve expressed why supporting local business matters, here are six tips to support local businesses:

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1. Order takeout and delivery from your favorite local establishments and keep them OPEN! You can also buy gift cards as well to support them right now and use them later.

2. Help businesses support essential workers by donating food, supplies, and services from local shops. The business will appreciate it as will the workers.

3. If you are looking to exercise at home, see if you can take advantage of virtual sessions offered by local gyms. This will help them get business and keep you in shape.

4. Boost community spirit and help the Class of 2020 feel special with yard signs celebrating graduating seniors. This is a way to show support and solidarity.

5. Look to see who is open and if there are any special offers that will benefit both you and the business owner. For example, one new free resource I found is called Bounce Back USA. It lets businesses submit a free local listing and receive a free COVID-19 awareness poster while encouraging communities to shop local. You can also check different community groups as well.

6. Last but not least, continue to show empathy to our fellow neighbors and remember that we are all in this together. Whether we are facing a global pandemic or not, this is good advice to adhere to. The more we all work together, the better off we will be.

For me, local businesses have a special place in my heart. Now is the time for us to give them some love and support, so that when COVID-19 is eventually behind us, they will still be there for us for that next event, or team sponsorship, or community fundraiser.

Stay safe!