Battling layoffs, furloughs, and loss of revenue, many small businesses across the country are reeling from the economic pain of COVID-19. Local businesses in the Gig Harbor area are no exception. Some merchants are trying to give it a go online, some have temporarily closed up shop, and others simply won’t survive at all. One local woman, however, is trying to make a difference.

“COVID-19 has really done a number on a lot of businesses. If we do not support these businesses in this time, they won’t be here when it’s over. A lot of the businesses have been around for many years,” said Wendy O’Neil, who has lived in the Gig Harbor area for about 25 years and is a full-time student to earn her associate degree in paralegal studies.

Through her previously established Gig Harbor’s Positive Town Talk Facebook page, which has nearly 11,000 members, O’Neil is working to raise money for local businesses to hopefully help lessen their financial burden due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I post every 24 hours a new business and the community donate[s]. We have gotten anywhere from as little as $200 up to $750 per business within 24 hour periods,” O’Neil said. To date, she has raised nearly $7,000 for 12 businesses.

O’Neil said every penny raised goes to that business to purchase gift cards. She then raffles the gift cards to those who have donated money, which is typically sent via PayPal, Venmo, or Facebook Messenger.

“I feel like, as a community, even the smallest gesture right now helps so much. One business [owner] told me that she had to choose between keeping her lights on in her shop or buying her daughter’s graduation announcements — and with the donations she was able to do both. That brought tears to my eyes and filled my heart with so much joy,” said O’Neil. “We can all continue to buy gift cards to use at later times, That will help the businesses that we have come to love so much stay afloat.”