The Power of Community: How Small Business Owners Help Their Communities After a Disaster

Date: April 26, 2019

Despite natural disasters like flooding and wildfires, small business owners find ways to come together and support their communities.

In the chaotic aftermath of a natural disaster, the contributions of small business owners have positive ripple effects.

After Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 hurricane, made landfall in October 2018, the parking lot outside of Golden Health Mart Pharmacy in Blountstown, Florida, (a tiny community 50 miles inland) was littered with pieces of rooftop from surrounding buildings. Despite the rubble and debris, Golden Pharmacy was one of the first businesses in the area to re-open, thanks to the ingenuity of owner, pharmacist, and NFIB member Clifford Goodman.

“People needed their medications,” says Goodman. As news spread of power outages and downed trees, businesses, churches, and other organizations rallied to provide residents and each other with crucial supplies. He knew he needed to do something to get people much-needed prescriptions. But how?

Improvising After a Disaster

Since Golden Pharmacy was without electricity, Goodman’s staff of pharmacists and cashiers was unable to work inside—so they improvised.

Goodman and his team set up a makeshift pharmacy using a canopy, table, and sign to let people know they were open for business. They also used Facebook and word-of-mouth advertising to alert patients with prescriptions. Cashiers recorded transactions with pen and paper, and pharmacists focused on the most urgent needs by supplying small amounts of medicine for conditions like diabetes and thyroid disease.

Goodman wasn’t the only small business owner who pitched in to help the community.

Goodman’s warehouse representatives delivered gas to power the generators, enabling staff to access records. They distributed cases of clean water to residents who lacked access to it. A local restaurant gave away hundreds of meals using donated food.

“Looking back and seeing the people rally together, I’m really appreciative,” Goodman says, despite suffering steep losses in revenue himself serving thousands of people during a 10-day power outage.

Thanking First Responders

The support from small businesses was also on display during last year’s wildfires that ravaged parts of California. Hotels provided free or discounted lodging, and local pizzerias gave away food. Small business owners made it possible for the community to thank the firefighters who worked tirelessly to save homes and businesses.

The Woolsey Fire in Thousand Oaks, California came dangerously close to NFIB member Jami Leaf’s office and home. Leaf is the CEO of Signature Signs Inc., a sign shop she and her husband Mark own. Their store down the road was spared, but they knew that others weren’t as lucky. “We wanted to do something for the community, but we felt helpless,” says Leaf.

She offered to donate time and resources to create a 216-square-foot banner thanking firefighters and other rescue workers, a sign that would normally cost hundreds of dollars to produce. Leaf collaborated with Conejo Schools Foundation and The Oaks Mall, a shopping mall that set up therapy art and letter writing stations. Hundreds of residents wrote messages of gratitude on the banner, which still hangs near the mall’s entrance.

Contributions take on a special meaning when help comes from an enterprise with small operating margins, says NFIB’s California State Director John Kabateck. “Many NFIB members of communities from Chico to Thousand Oaks gave their own time and resources to help make sure families had a roof over their head, a meal to eat, and a future to look forward to,” he says.

Related: From Texas to Florida: NFIB Member Family Offers Back-to-Back Relief for Hurricane Harvey and Irma

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