Fillmore County Journal
Do you remember around the end of 2019, there were all of these jokes about how 2020 was going to be the year of vision, clarity, and focus? Boy, did we get blindsided.
I heard another joke recently. If you think 2020 was bad, wait until 2020 turns 21.
Seriously, we have been living through historic times. This global pandemic hasn’t been experienced since 1918. I’m not saying I signed up for this, but it is what it is, right? We deal with the cards we are dealt.
While 2020 definitely caught us off-guard, I keep reminding myself that everything happens for a reason.
There are ideas that evolved from how we were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. We would have never had a reason to think differently. This doesn’t mean that we don’t yearn for returning to normal lives pre-pandemic. It just demonstrates how we can adapt, support each other, and find new ways to sustain in the face of plight.
And, from what we’ve learned in 2020, there will be some things that will stick.
Over the past couple weeks, Journal employees Sara Schultz, Sherry Hines, Amanda Sethre, and myself have been driving around from town to town picking up gift cards from local businesses that participated in the Small Business Saturday $1,000 LOCAL gift card giveaway. The 10 winners who were drawn on December 9 each received $100-worth of local gift cards arriving in their mailboxes.
This was our first year promoting a shop local campaign in which we gave away gift cards that we purchased from businesses, based on what readers selected from a list of local businesses in our area.
From LeRoy to Spring Grove to Caledonia to Chatfield to Harmony – and every town in between – we were busy picking up gift cards to give away to the 10 winners. This was a win-win situation. Our readers won gift cards to use at local businesses. And, we purchased the gift cards from those businesses.
What’s been quite amazing throughout this entire pandemic is how we’ve adapted in ways we may have never considered in the past. With so many local businesses in our small towns struggling, our newspaper may have not come up with the idea to conduct a $1,000 local gift card giveaway. But, it just seemed like a naturally supportive thing to do that would benefit our readers and business community.
And, some things that make sense now will continue when things get back to normal. So, next year, we’ll be doing the same type of giveaway revolving around Small Business Saturday.
That creativity is happening around all of us. Businesses and non-profits have discovered new paths to remain sustainable. There will be failures and successes along the way, as with anything, but trial and error helps us learn.
Over the past nine months, there have been many fundraisers that were going to be cancelled, but the organizations decided to offer a drive-thru option. Instead of cancelling the event, they proceeded in a different way. I know of one organization that increased their sales from serving 900 people in past years to over 1,400. And, with the drive-thru option, there is less work involved in clean-up. Another organization recently conducted their first fundraiser offering a drive-thru only option. They figured they’d hit close to $6,000 in funds raised. People were so generous, driving from towns more than 20 to 30 miles away to make a donation, that the fundraiser generated over $9,000.
Back on November 9, 2020, we started publishing an ongoing feature dedicated to hobbies. You’ve probably seen it… “What’s your hobby?” This wasn’t our idea. Jim Meyer of Spring Valley, Minn., presented the idea to our Assistant Editor Ellen Whalen. With the pandemic, people have been cooped up at home. There’s no time for boredom when you have a hobby to keep you busy. We are surrounded by a lot of talented people, and this feature has encouraged us to share their stories.
In this week’s newspaper, we have Pastor Bridget Sheely sharing a devotional message with Journal readers. We are blessed with Pastor Mark Woodward taking the lead on this weekly feature, coordinating a schedule of participating clergy in our circulation area to publish in the newspaper on a rotational basis. We appreciate Pastor Woodward’s leadership in the community and with our newspaper, and we look forward to those weekly devotional messages.
And, along the way in 2020, we have explored and introduced new features like Historic memories of Fillmore County (by Dianne Ruud), Pages from the Past (by Jeff Kale), and Peering at the Past (by Lee Epps), Al Batt’s weekly column, and Kid Scoop.
There’s been so much adaptation in 2020, it’s almost incomprehensible.
In spite of all of the chaos caused by the pandemic, there has been some good that has come out of it. We just have to take notice.
We spent more time outdoors hiking, biking, and kayaking. More “day-cations” and “staycations,” taking in our local attractions that we often take for granted.
And, I’ve been impressed with how so many local businesses are promoting other businesses. There are restaurants encouraging customers to support other restaurants. Isn’t this great?
People in this area are shopping local more, in spite of national media promoting online shopping.
I hear it all the time. Local retailers are seeing customers walk in their doors and spend more money than they have in the past. They want to support local businesses now to make sure these businesses are open in the future.
There have been customers purchasing hundreds of dollars in gift cards from restaurants to make sure these locally-owned establishments keep the cash flowing to keep their lights on. And, the customers buying the gift cards are purchasing them to use for themselves in the future.
While 2020 will be a year to remember for reasons we may want to forget, we have found ways to come together (when we were supposed to stay six feet apart) to help each other get through challenging and uncertain times.
Hopefully, we can feel good about some things we discovered about ourselves in 2020.