Small businesses are at the heart of the Jamaica Plain community, and many have been hit very hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. JP Centre/South Main Streets has created the Jamaica Plain Main Streets Relief fund to help those who weren’t able to immediately receive financial assistance.
JP Centre/South Main Streets Executive Director Ginger Brown said that the organization was approached by a private donor, Adam Grenier, who is also a volunteer on the organization’s economic vitality committee. He wanted to invest in the economic vitality of Jamaica Plain.
“We talked about it and decided to wait a little bit and see where the greatest need would be,” Brown said, but they knew they wanted to help “residents and employees who were unable to receive any other kind of public assistance,” prioritizing people of color, all genders, undocumented immigrants, people with disabilities, people formerly incarcerated, and those facing housing instability.
The fund was also opened to Egleston Square and Three Squares Main Streets, and had an original goal of $5,0000. “We got a fantastic response,” Brown said. The GoFundMe has now surpassed $12,000.
“It’s really exciting and gratifying to see our community come together to help people,” she said. The application process was crafted by Grenier and the Main Streets directors, and only has two criteria: the applicant has to live or work in Jamaica Plain, and has to have been unable to receive other kinds of assistance.
Brown said the group wanted to make an application that would “identify the need without people feeling like they will be at-risk.”
The application was open last Monday, May 11, through Friday, May 15, and received 52 English responses and 90 Spanish responses. The fund will allow 30 $500 grants to be given out to eligible applicants as cash or gift cards, and the GoFundMe will remain open for donations for future rounds.
Brown said rather than have another application process, cash grants will continue to be awarded to the original pool of applicants.
This week, the selection committee, made up of Michael Reiskind, Adam Grenier, and at least one representative from each of the Main Streets organizations, will be selecting the recipients, and have decided that it will be “totally need-based.”
JP Centre/South Main Streets has also collected artwork for its “JP Together” art show, which will be a large-scale projection show onto the brick facade of JP Licks from 8:30pm to 9:30pm on May 22 through May 25. Some of the ideas for the artwork will include kids’ artwork, “drawings of people in Jamaica Plain that you are thankful for, signs that show encouragement for people affected by COVID-19, artwork that shows how you’re feeling, and what about JP makes you feel better, and visual messages of appreciation for frontline workers or local businesses,” according to the JP Centre/South Main Streets website.
The projection will also be live streamed on the JP Centre/South Main Street’s Facebook page as well as recorded for playback later.
JP Centre/South Main Streets is also helping residents and businesses in other ways. Brown said that a team of volunteers has reached out to local businesses asking how they have changed the way they operate, and providing information to residents about the best way to support each business.
“We have come up with unique promotions in our community to support [businesses] safely,” Brown said, including creating packages with items from different businesses and putting blue door mats in front of businesses that are open so people know they can go inside.
“As a Main Streets director, we are highly encouraging businesses to think of ways their businesses will change and stay in business for the next few months,” Brown said. “We should be thinking about four to six months of continuing to operate like this.”
She said that the Main Streets organizations are here to assist businesses and help them brainstorm ideas as they work towards a “new normal” for their operation.
“I’m grateful to the community for having come together to help out businesses and the people who live here,” she said.