Merchants join with boosters to build Community Unity
by BETH ALTENA
Buy a better product and put money into Rockford Public Schools sports programs. Downtown merchants have formed a new partnership with Rockford Sports Boosters. The program keeps the dollars spent for sports fundraising local, offers better products (those offered here in town) and might keep kids from selling door to door.
Barb Stein of Great Northern Trading Company is one of the organizers of the partnership, called Community Unity.
Three times a year shoppers will be able to present a Community Unity card when making a purchase with a participating merchant. That merchant will then donate ten percent of that sale to the Sports Boosters. Other non-profits are invited to participate in the future.
Stein is a real expert in the retail field as a long-time Rockford merchant and chair-elect of the Michigan Retailers Association. She believes in the value of product and fair pricing local shops offer.
The idea came when Polly VonEschen of Baskets in the Belfry was thinking about the items fundraising groups typically offer. Usually they are catalog items that you aren’t able to see or sample before purchase.
She knows Rockford has better wares to offer, and supporting sports boosters from the stores should please parents, as well.
“As parents, we buy the products ourselves because we don’t want our children going door-to-door, or we take it to work,” Stein said. The plan has the advantage of keeping local dollars within our community. “When you buy from a catalog, certainly none of that money stays local,” Stein said.
Now more than ever consumers are realizing the importance of shopping locally. An article from ambia, the American Independent Business Alliance, discussed findings of the impact of money spent at local, independently-owned businesses compared to corporate chains.
“Dollars spent at community-based merchants create a multiplier effect in the local economy, that, by most findings, typically amounts to three times that of a chain,” the article stated.
A 2003 economic study showed that, of the money spent at a chain, $13 stayed in the community compared to $45 remaining when spent at a local shop or business.
“It is really, really important now to shop locally, Stein said. It is also important to support sports programs in a town like Rockford, especially when some families are struggling more than ever. “We can do this because we are a very generous community,” Stein stated.
The first of three-a-year times to present the Community Unity card is now, April 15 to 30. The card can be cut out of this paper (page 11) downloaded from the Squire website at rockfordsquire.com or is available at participating businesses.
The next fundraising period will be October 15 to 31 and then January 15 to 31. As the program grows, more merchants should join.