Joan Monen, owner of the Wild Hare Saloon in Canby and Oregon City, couldn’t believe it.
It was barely a week after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown had ordered all restaurants and bars in the state closed for indoor dining, allowing them to offer only take-out or delivery.
The move, which was part of an aggressive and unprecedented effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, sent shock waves through the hospitality industry.
It led to layoffs (which helped cause a record spike in unemployment claims that week) and forced restaurant proprietors like Joan to worry about the economic future of their small businesses.
Then, it happened.
“A longtime friend/customer stopped in yesterday to purchase $1000 in Wild Hare Saloon gift cards…and LEFT them,” the Wild Hare said in a March 25 Facebook post. “This person asked us to use them as we saw fit, so we’re going to help some people out.”
More supporters took their cue from the anonymous benefactor and began to do the same thing, buying gift cards and leaving them, as a sign of support for Joan’s business, but also to help those in the community who might suddenly be unsure where their next meal is coming from.
The outpouring of generosity gave Kyle Lang, current director of the Canby Area Chamber of Commerce but also the former bartender at the Wild Hare Saloon, an idea.
The chamber has dubbed the initiative “Gift Cards for Giving.”
“The one act of kindness led to another and another,” Lang said. “When people were cued, that this is a way that they could help, from a distance. Once the idea was there, it germinated, and caused another act of kindness and another. And that’s basically was inspired ‘Gift Cards for Giving.'”
Here’s how it works: You buy a gift card from a local business from the security of your home, identify a local nonprofit or organization you want the donation to go to, and the chamber takes care of all the legwork.
Lang encourages residents to be creative with their donations. Restaurants and grocery store donations are great, but what about other essential services people may need? What about local businesses who are struggling to stay afloat?
For cleaning supplies and hardware, consider donating a gift certificate to Canby Builders Supply or Canby Ace Hardware, Lang said. To support the Canby Book Nook, consider buying a gift card and donating it to the Canby School District.
“You know, there’s all kinds of ways to help,” Lang said. “What I really encourage people to do is get a hold of the charitable institution of their choice and ask them what they need. Then, buy that gift card locally.
“So, not only are you helping the local business environment, you’re also helping the charity of your choice.”
For more information, reach the Canby Area Chamber at 503-266-4600, or email@example.com.
Hear more from Canby Area Chamber Director Kyle Lang in Episode 159 of the Canby Now Podcast, “Life in the Fast Lang”: