WILMINGTON — If there’s one thing the pandemic has shown, it’s that the strength of the community can withstand anything.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the mantra “We’re all in this together” made the rounds on social media.
And Dessie Rogers, the Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, believes that mantra is ingrained in the community.
One of the things the Chamber is seeing this year, compared to last year, is an uptick in members celebrating ribbon cuttings and open houses, “Whether that’s a brand new business, or a new location, or an expansion, or a project they’ve been working on that they’ve been wanting to celebrate,” said Rogers. “We’ve been seeing a lot of excited of people getting back out there and celebrating what has been done in the last year, or what they’re looking forward to.”
According to Rogers, in 2020 the chamber was limited by the pandemic to just nine community events.
So far in 2021, they’ve had 40.
While being aware of any health mandates in effect at the time, Rogers believes people are incredibly excited about things returning to a sense of normality this year. She believes there’s a supportive energy that’s being carried over in 2021 and hopes to see it continue in the future.
“Of course we saw this outpouring of support for businesses during COVID, which was just so meaningful to the business community and the non-profit community,” she said. “You saw people getting take-out from restaurants and doing curb-side shopping.”
Despite the pandemic, 2020 also saw the Chamber adding 20 new members, a partnership with the Clinton County Foundation to help distribute 8,000 reusable “Clinton County Strong” masks, and over $10,000 raised for local businesses with the “Community Over COVID” T-shirt campaign.
“I’ve been really proud of the community support for businesses over the last year. We certainly saw a lot of that through our Local First campaign,” said Rogers. “The community seemed really receptive of wanting to help those businesses get through the hard times.”
This whole ordeal made her think back to 2009 when DHL pulled out of Wilmington and when the Local First campaign began.
“I saw a lot of similarities the early days of the Local First campaign and the pandemic response,” she said.
From a personal and professional standpoint, the pandemic has made her realize to not take things for granted. Going forward, she hopes locals don’t loose the momentum they’ve had over the last year and that they continue the same energy.
“I hope we find a way to sustain this energy that we’ve seen … and really help reshape into how do we celebrate those silver linings, and celebrate the businesses that have been so resilient and flexible, and the customers who have been so supportive to the community,” she said.
Rogers wants to see how they can collect that energy and use it moving forward and tackle the issues that are on the horizon.
“It’s all about communication and collaboration,” she said. “I know that every issue we’re looking at is with a very collaborative nature.
“Whether that’s with our economic development partners or members, we’re always trying to push that conversation forward.”
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574