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Help on a local level: Wilmington Downtown Inc. seeking donations to keep businesses afloat

Help on a local level: Wilmington Downtown Inc. seeking donations to keep businesses afloat
Updated: Apr. 10, 2020 at 2:17 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Wilmington Downtown Incorporated (WDI) and the Longleaf Foundation are calling on the public to help keep downtown businesses operating after announcing the Re-3 grant program Monday.

“Monday, we launched the program and within 24 hours we had received so many applications that we were well in excess of the funding we presently had, however thankfully we have been receiving donations all this week, some pretty large amounts of money. We’ve got a lot more money than we started with,” said Dane Scalise, Chair of Wilmington Downtown Inc.

The Re-3 grant program will provide $3,000 grants to help downtown businesses re-stock, re-open, and re-cover from the devastating implications of COVID-19.

“As of late last night, we had I think 97 applications and we’ve got a lot of businesses in downtown. A pretty good portion of the number of businesses that we have is at least signaling ,'hey, we could use $3,000 to help us through this craziness.' I think we raised so far about $50,000 in the last four or five days so I’m extremely impressed with that,” Scalise said.

Scalise said the application takes less than 10 minutes and businesses essentially have to enter what they do and shoot a 60-second video about how they would use the $3,000 grant.

“No strings attached, we’re not going to follow up with you and say, ‘hey, you didn’t use this for this purpose.’ People just need money right now and they need it from whatever source they can get it and hopefully, this is a supplemental source to everything else that everyone is applying for right now,” he said.

WDI will accept Re-3 applications until 4 p.m. on Friday, April 17, 2020. All awards are subject to available funding.

“I’ll tell you, it’s going to be tough to make a determination about who all is deserving," Scalise said. "Because all of these people are deserving. But if we can raise the maximum amount of dollars and distribute it to maximum businesses, I think that will alleviate some of what’s going on but we need the public’s involvement to make that happen.”

Scalise said he understands many are not able to donate right now but urges anyone who can to do so.

“There are people that are just so strapped right now that they don’t have the capacity to contribute something like this. But there are people that can, and I think they should because this is the sort of unity involvement and interaction it really makes a difference,” he said. “I think it’s important for individuals to say 'hey I care about that business, I buy candles there, I like to go do my Sunday brunch there’ and they need us more than ever right now,” he said.

Scalise said downtown Wilmington has made great strides over the past 20 years, and especially in the past five with the boom in development.

“For us to lose that core ,even have it diminish on some level, would have a really wide-ranging impact on Wilmington at large, and I’m just going to optimistically believe that that’s not going to happen. But gosh who knows? There’s a lot of uncertainty right now. I think we’re going to persevere, I think we’re going to come through this. I’m just going to believe that over the next month or two things are going to normalize and, hopefully, folks are going to come through with the donations in times like this to help downtown,” he said.

To donate to or apply for the Re-3 grant program you can visit wilmingtondowntown.com/business/re3 or call (910) 763-7349.

WDI has also identified other ways to keep small businesses operating. Here is a list of all retail shops and restaurants still open in downtown.

Scalise said shopping and eating locally help to sustain local businesses for a longer period of time.

“The reality is that some of these larger national chains have reserves. They’ve got the financial capacity that a mom-and-pop operation just doesn’t have, can’t have,” he said.

Towns, cities, and counties across southeastern North Carolina are also working to assist businesses in any way possible.

“Even outside of downtown we probably need to consider where do I shop? Where do I like to go restaurant wise? I need to make sure that those people are doing OK and if you have the capacity to help them, and not everyone does, but if you do, you really ought to help them,” Scalise said.

In Pender County, the tourism department is offering incentives for winning ‘takeout bingo.’

In Brunswick County, some chambers of commerce are keeping updated lists of businesses that are still open.

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