Transylvania County SCORE and its partners have been receiving nominations from the local community for individuals and organizations to be recognized as “Heroes and Teachers.”
This initiative is not a contest but is a chance to learn from people in the community who can teach others.
The nominees have led by example with their actions, and these actions allowed them to survive, prosper and better serve the community during the current COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis.
The following story is based on one of the nominations and will give readers a better appreciation for what occurred and how it impacted the Transylvania County community.
Since COVID-19 came to Transylvania County in early March, the traditional support organizations and systems have been heavily impacted. They’ve had issues, including lack of certainty in where to go and what to expect from traditionally steady supply chains, volunteer availability, fundraising events, and even the health and safety of their own staff.
The Heart of Brevard’s Nicole Bentley developed a comprehensive COVID-19 response strategy for downtown businesses and collaborated with the Brevard/Transylvania Chamber of Commerce and Transylvania County Tourism, the Transylvania Economic Alliance and Transylvania Small Business Support Task Force to assist businesses county-wide through the pandemic.
Clark Lovelace, the chamber’s executive director, said the “Heart of Brevard (HOB) really stepped up to lead a collaborative effort to support businesses in Transylvania County during this time of crisis. Important programs like Transylvania Tomorrow would not have happened if not for the leadership of HOB Executive Director Nicole Bentley.”
Brevard City Council-woman Maureen Copelof said the Heart of Brevard quickly and effectively responded to the rapidly changing pandemic situation with innovation, collaboration and accurate/ fast information dissemination.
“All of these actions were critical to our town as businesses tried to understand the latest regulations, had need for guidance on funding sources, and needed someplace to go to get answers to a myriad of questions,” Copelof said. “HOB, under Nicole Bentley’s leadership, was the ‘one stop shop’ for this and more.”
Among the HOB’s actions:
•Transylvania Tomorrow fund. Bentley suggested the idea of a relief fund to the Transylvania Business Support Task Force and pledged $10,000 from HOB, leading to the formation of the program. HOB continued to lead the effort, which has resulted in over $160,000 in support to more than 90 businesses throughout Transylvania County. HOB manages the application process, grant notifications, payments, marketing/social media and solicits donations.
•Three virtual town halls held on local, state and federal assistance.
•Assisted with two COVID-19 business impact surveys.
•Phase II reopening guidelines, tools and best practices for businesses shared with the chamber.
•Hosted four “industry huddle ups” for retail, accommodations, restaurants, and the art community to provide information and support during reopening.
•Asheville Strong collaboration to include HOB businesses gift cards.
•Pisgah Lab hand sanitizer bulk-ordered and delivered to local businesses.
•Video to support HOB businesses and offer messages of hope to the community.
•Zoom information sessions for affinity-related businesses.
•Phase II reopening best practices for business guidelines and poster.
•Public outdoor spaces mapped for social-distancing dining.
•Resolution (with city) to expand downtown outdoor space for restaurants/retailers.
•City’s COVID-19 Toolkit collaboration and distribution.
•Curbside pickup zones strategy (developed with Downtown Master Plan Committee) disseminated through personal visits and email.
•Critical information continually disseminated on COVID-19 state guidelines, statistics, trends, state/federal/local support initiatives.
All of this occurred while still supporting guides to downtown restaurants and hotels working to meet the need of visitors. A good example of quick responses was the restructuring of the “ARTS in March 2020”event, which had to be cancelled but then several arts businesses created and orchestrated their own planned events/open gallery. The Heart of Brevard has seen a substantial increase in arts-related businesses in the past few years.
View the article on the Transylvania Times website, here.