Rhinebeck business owners offer grants to help others

RHINEBECK – Ten Rhinebeck businesses, including the fine arts cinema, a toy store, a women’s boutique, and an art gallery, are among the first recipients of awards from Rhinebeck Responds’ Small Business Grants program.

“Rhinebeck Responds is helping to ensure that our small independent, owner-operated businesses, which are the economic heart of our wonderful community,  make it through these very challenging times,” explains Tom LeGrand, Chair of the 7-person Small Grants Committee. “In making our decisions,  we assess the contribution of both the business and its owner to our community,” says LeGrand.

The Rhinebeck Responds grants program, launched in June, is open to businesses located within Rhinebeck. The program provides grants of up to $5000 a piece, based on applications and funds available. Rhinebeck businesses are facing mounting debt, plummeting earnings, and employee layoffs, and 72 percent say they have not gotten any rent relief from their landlords, according to a recent Rhinebeck Responds survey.

“We are honored to be included with the first group of grant recipients and very proud of the efforts of our fellow citizens to help our community recover from this crisis,” says Dede Leiber, Co-Owner, Upstate Films, Rhinebeck’s independent fine arts cinema which has been in operation for 48 years.

“Talk about perfect timing!” exclaimed Carla Olla, owner of Rhinebeck Yoga Center located in the heart of Rhinebeck Village. “I literally cried tears of joy, my heart swelled with a sense of relief and gratitude at the generosity of this gesture and I felt immense pride in being part of such a loving and supportive community.” She adds, “I had started to lose hope that we would be able to keep our doors open, and now I feel confident that we will be able to hang in there.”

The grants program is run by Rhinebeck Responds, a volunteer civic organization created to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, in partnership with the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley. It is funded with donations from individuals, businesses, and the Frost Memorial Fund.

“We were fortunate to have had two generous initial donations,” says Mark Fuerst, head of Rhinebeck Responds. “The needs are very great, and we are now striving to replenish these gifts with other donations.” Tax-deductible donations can be made via the Community Foundations. Click here.

The first donation came from Maya Kaimal Foods, a homemade Indian cuisine company headquartered in Rhinebeck. “Many landlords and residents in Rhinebeck talk about loving our unique owner-operated stores,” explains Maya Kaimal, an award-winning cookbook author. “But,” she adds, “we believe now is the time to put words into action. Rent relief and sharing the burden of the disaster that has impacted our small business owners is the responsibility of all of us.”

The second pilot donation came from businessman Michael Clark, who explains, “I became a Rhinebeck resident last year and instantly fell in love with the spirit of the town. In this crisis there is opportunity to help.” He adds, “Many of us have had helping hands, good fortune and it’s time to pay it forward. Now, more than ever, we need to step up and realize we are all in this together.”

Clark and his business partner Greg Perlman have set up another fund that is offering interest-free loans up to $25,000 to Rhinebeck businesses. For details, click here.

Rhinebeck Responds is working closely with the Village and Town governments. “It goes without saying that we have never seen or been through anything like this COVID-19 pandemic experience,” says Rhinebeck Village Mayor Gary Bassett. “The village’s lifestyle and vibrant street scene has been hit hard,” but, he adds, “the grant and no-interest loan programs will help the merchants and bring the Village back.”

For grant applications and details about the program, go to Rhinebeck Responds website: www.rhinebeckresponds.org.

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