By Kim Dishongh
Main Street Russellville Inc., one organization that received a mini-grant from Arkansas Community Foundation, used it to support essential workers while helping some of the city’s downtown businesses.
Danielle Housenick, executive director of Main Street Russellville, said the $1,000 COVID-19 rapid response mini-grant from the Foundation made it possible to purchase more than 850 meals from Russellville restaurants. These meals were delivered to staff at the COVID Triage Center at Saint Mary’s Regional, the city’s fire and police departments and others.
“We love this sort of endeavor because it’s a win-win,” said Housenick. “We’re able to spend money in some of our small businesses, and we’re able to help our local people who are right on the front lines, stressed out and just in need of a pick-me-up.”
Main Street Russellville was founded in 1992, part of a national program geared toward revitalizing the city’s downtown area. The organization hosts quarterly downtown art walks, summer concerts and festivals, all with the goal of creating a community spirit and encouraging people to shop and dine downtown.
Some of Russellville’s downtown businesses have seen a 50% downturn in sales in the last few months because of the outbreak of Covid-19, Housenick said. Throughout the crisis, Main Street Russellville disseminated information about various sources of assistance to small businesses and recently held a conference call on the topic for more than 250 businesses.
Some of those same businesses, Housenick said, have been the backbone of Main Street Russellville’s efforts over the years, donating money, space and resources for programs and events. Main Street Russellville has done what it can to infuse money back into them during these uncertain times.
Housenick set out to do something to help emergency personnel, who are providing vital services to the community during a time of need, and also support the businesses that were suffering. Buying to-go lunches from downtown restaurants and delivering that food to essential workers who are providing vital services to the community throughout the pandemic allows Main Street Russellville to do both simultaneously.
The people who have received meals are grateful, said Housenick, for the sustenance and for the recognition of their hard word work and sacrifice.
“Some of the business owners have said, ‘I paid my rent this month and that’s at least partially because of your support,’” Housenick said. “Small businesses have held up our community for so long by donating to nonprofits, and it’s just really good to give back to them.”