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Get on Living Safely campaign readjusts to support local through pandemic recovery
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Get on Living Safely campaign

Get on Living Safely campaign readjusts to support local through pandemic recovery

A local group is continuing its campaign to help keep dollars in the La Crosse community, now shifting gears to maintain the support as recovery from the pandemic slowly begins.

The campaign, “Get on Living Safely,” announced Monday that it is readjusting its messaging to shop and consume locally, after a successful first phase of the project helped keep more dollars local during the holidays.

'Get On Living Safely' campaign

“The reality is that the COVID-19 pandemic has had just a destructive effect on our local economy and the fabric of our community,” said Nick Roush, president of the North La Crosse Business Association and owner of Roush Rentals and Root Down Yoga.

“We’re at a critical time where the groundswell of people returning to their lives, returning to their normal is growing all the time, and as that groundswell occurs it’s critical that we have the power to make a difference in our community.”

The group, launched by the North La Crosse Business Association, first started the campaign ahead of the holiday season, encouraging the community to shop and spend dollars locally for gifts and experiences.

“I think we made a really solid difference in keeping Christmas in the community,” Roush said.

Specifically, the first phase of the campaign garnered the support of over 35 local businesses that helped donate more than $60,000 toward the campaign. The messaging reached more than 3,500 people and garnered more than 20,000 online engagements.

But a lot of the impact couldn’t be seen in numbers, Roush said, and instead was seen and heard through anecdotes, from Facebook posts to comments sent to the campaign, the messaging from GOLS was able to help the community realize the impact they could have.

“When we talked to folks about what’s going on, they got it in a way they never got it before,” Roush said. “How when I spend money at this local place, it means that my neighbors get to feed their kids. And they got that message in a way that was just disconnected in the past.”

But now, as more and more community members are being inoculated against the coronavirus, it means that groups are able to slowly open their doors — and the GOLS campaign wants to encourage the community to meet them with open arms.

The impact of keeping things local during the pandemic can be seen in the nonprofits in the area, including the Boys and Girls Club of Greater La Crosse, which painted a picture of the ripple effect the campaign has had.

The group, which hosted the campaign’s announcement Monday, said the support garnered by the initiative has helped them adapt through the pandemic — including by eliminating membership fees and lowering other service fees at the club.

“Our hope with that is that families can choose to get to the local grocery store and get to a local business and not having to make a decision of having to spend any money on their child’s services at the Boys and Girls Club, and invest those dollars locally into our businesses that need that extra support,” Erickson said.

Jake Erickson

Jake Erickson, Executive Director, Boys & Girls CLubs of Greater La Crose

“And in return, our Boys and Girls Club survived solely on the generosity of our community,” he said, noting that the group receives no federal support and only a small amount of state funding.

Now the club has launched its weekend basketball league, which has more than 100 teams participating from the La Crosse area, Erickson said, with masks required and a limited amount of fans.

Having the support to run something such as the weekend basketball league can help lead that ripple effect, Erickson described, by then bringing more folks into the community who might stop at local stores or restaurants.

“Stay local with your dollars, and in return that’s going to be helping shape great futures at the Boys and Girls Club,” Erickson said.

Others who have experienced the impact of the GOLS campaign include Eve Molzhon of Fun Fur Pets, who has adapted to better serve the community.

The pet boarding and training center in La Crosse had its business dramatically cut in a matter of weeks at the start of the pandemic. But things are starting to look up, and as it begins the first steps to recovery, the group is passing its good fortune along.

“As a local business I’m supporting other local businesses, and what that does is it’s also taught my staff how to do that as well,” Molzhon said. “So it is just that huge ripple effect.”

Specifically, Molzhon said instead of being able to give her staff holiday bonuses because of lost revenue, she bought her employees unique gifts from local stores, and they currently buy takeout from a local restaurant every Friday for the office.

These small steps can make a big difference, she said, and can start with just one person.

“If one person can post on Facebook how they had a great experience utilizing a local business, or that they found a local business that they never even knew existed before, those are all great things,” she said.

“It’s super important that not only us as small businesses support other small businesses, but you as the community take that next step,” Molzhon said.

“These are all just small pieces in a very, very big scale,” she said. “And the only way that all of these stores and all of these people are going to stay in our community, they’re going to live in our community, is if you support them. And that’s really the bottom line.”

Nick Roush Root Down

Nick Roush

The newest phase of the campaign will focus on reinforcing the impact supporting local can have, but also on addressing the “hard news,” Roush said, such as the $150 million in revenue he said regional businesses have lost through the pandemic, while working closer with local lawmakers.

“It’s easy to talk about generosity in the context of the holidays,” Roush said, “and what it did is it solidified that our community really cares about their neighbors.”

“I think La Crosse is just a super solid Midwest community, where people know their neighbor’s names, and their survival of their community around them matters to them,” he said.

“Thank you to the people that have supported this campaign,” he said. “Thank you to our community for supporting local in every possible way they can, because they have the power to make a difference.”

“We’re not just talking about one business,” Roush said. “We’re talking about all of us together.”

"When we talked to folks about what's going on, they got it in a way they never got it before. How when I spend money at this local place, it means that my neighbors get to feed their kids. And they got that message in a way that was just disconnected in the past."

Nick Roush, president of the North La Crosse Business Association and owner of Roush Rentals and Root Down Yoga.

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