Why this church gave thousands of dollars to small businesses in its community

Why this church gave thousands of dollars to small businesses in its community

A Tennessee church is trying to help small businesses stay afloat during the coronavirus crisis.

Goodlettsville Church recently donated thousands of dollars to three businesses in the communities where its members worship, said the Rev. Tim Stutler, senior pastor of the Cumberland Presbyterian congregation.

“We’re trying to keep people employed rather than having to take care of them when they’re unemployed,” said Stutler, who leads the church’s campuses in Goodlettsville and Gallatin.

Many small businesses have taken a financial hit during the COVID-19 outbreak. State and local orders aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus required several owners to close their brick and mortar shops to the public for weeks and to stop providing certain services. Those measures have started to ease across much of the state.

Altogether, the 160,000-plus small businesses in Tennessee employ more than 2 million of the state’s residents, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development said in an April news release. State officials encouraged owners to apply for federal loan assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Stutler also thinks the faith community can help these businesses weather the coronavirus crisis. It is why the church launched the Small Business Blessing effort, and Stutler hopes other houses of worship follow their lead.

“We could make a very significant impact,” Stutler said.

Also as a part of the effort, Stutler is encouraging members to support small businesses by doing their Christmas shopping in May. He is asking them to pay for several hair appointments in advance, buy gift cards and tip well.

“We believe it’s a great way to help keep the economy stimulated and keep these businesses open,” Stutler said. “We love those folks who invested in our community and we want to help them keep their people employed.”

An email from Goodlettsville City Manager Tim Ellis inspired Stutler, who also is the president of the Goodlettsville Ministerial Alliance, to find a way for his church to help.

Ellis emailed alliance members asking them them to pray for struggling small businesses. Stutler approached other leaders of Goodlettsville Church and they voted to split $12,500 — one week of the church’s budgeted income — among three small businesses in Goodlettsville and Gallatin, Stutler said.

Perk Up Cafe & Gifts was one of the recipients.

Julia Proctor, who owns the restaurant and gift shop, briefly lost the ability to process the world around her when Ellis stopped by her shop to hand her a $5,000 check from Goodlettsville Church.

“I was just so gobsmacked,” Proctor said.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, Proctor shut the the cafe’s doors in late March and laid off two of her employees. She was able to bring in some money selling containers of pimento cheese and chicken salad, but not near enough to cover her expenses.

The church’s financial gift covered Perk Up Cafe & Gifts’ rent and utilities for the month. While there are still other bills to pay, Proctor is grateful to have a reprieve from worrying about how to come up with the money for those key expenses.

“It made the hole that small businesses are finding themselves in a little more shallow,” Proctor said.

She also sees it as an answer to a prayer.

“It was God saying, ‘You’ve got to stand in this gap. I want you to stand in this gap. You are supposed to be here,'” Proctor said.

Perk Up Cafe & Gifts was able to reopen Wednesday with social distancing measures in place, but Proctor still anticipates several lean months ahead for her and other small businesses. She encouraged the community to continue to shop locally and support small businesses in the coming months.

A surprise $5,000 donation from Goodlettsville Church also helped Chic Artique, said Jenna Rummel. She owns the furniture and home decor shop in Goodlettsville with her husband Jonathan Rummel, who is the chief of staff for the Tennessee Secretary of State.

“It’s very humbling,” Jenna Rummel said.

They temporarily closed their store front to the public in March. Chic Artique employs 14 people, Rummel said. They laid off two retail employees but have been able to keep the furniture workshop employees on the job, she said. But even with online orders, sales at Chic Artique dropped about 75%, she said.

The Rummels spread out their stack of bills and prayed over them on a recent Sunday. Jonathan Rummel recalled watching his parents perform a similar act of faith during a financial crisis in the 1980s, Jenna Rummel said. Two days later, they were surprised with the donation from Goodlettsville Church.

“I immediately remembered the prayer we had prayed and knew that it was an answer to the prayer because it was enough to really make a difference,” Jenna Rummel said.

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