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PLEASE SHOP LOCAL! ‘RISE UP RED ZONE’ LAUNCHED TO SUPPORT STRUGGLING LOCAL BUSINESSES

The financial impact of the pandemic has left its devastating mark on small businesses everywhere, with countless people seeing their life’s work decimated by lingering lockdowns. That impact has been profoundly greater in New York’s red zones, where small businesses deemed non-essential by Governor Andrew Cuomo were gasping for breath after being closed for months last spring, only to find themselves at the center of a second shutdown this fall that lasted an additional four and a half weeks. Enter the Rise Up Red Zone initiative launched by Flatbush Community Coalition Co-Founder Chaskel Bennett under the banner of the #WhoWeAre Network as a grassroots movement to support local businesses in areas that had been designated as red zones. Bennett said that he has spent numerous hours listening to small business owners who have tearfully recounted their struggles to make ends meet. “I know their stories because they have called me for help,” said Bennett. “They are men and women of all ages, from all backgrounds, with different life circumstances, but despite their diversity their stories are the same – they are honest, hard working people, who have invested blood, sweat and tears to build businesses that would provide for their families. But to be perfectly honest, many aren’t sure that they are going to be able to make it and I can tell you one thing, they can’t do it alone.” Far Rockaway activist Pesach Osina said “we are asking shoppers to remember their local businesses as the Chanukah buying season gets underway. It is essential to their survival.” Kidichic owner Galit Winer, who has several stores that were subjected to the protracted lockdowns, noted that stores that had to close because of the lockdowns faced a painful ripple effect, one that potentially affected their landlords, employees and other community members. Having experienced the financial realities of the lockdown as a small business owner, Winer emphasized the importance of shopping locally in order to help stores stay afloat. “We are all in survival mode,” said Winer. “We want to pay our bills and we are asking people to please support local businesses. Go buy that measuring cup in a local store or pick up that pair of socks or kippa your son needs – even small purchases make a difference and especially now with Chanukah coming up and people buying clothing, gifts and other items, we really need our people and then some to support us.” Brooklyn Councilman Chaim Deutsch has used social media to highlight the plight of small business owners in the local area over the past several weeks. He applauded Rise Up Red Zone for its efforts to promote and strengthen local commerce and called on the public to spend their dollars not on Amazon but in local stores, calling them the lifeblood of our community. “Please go out and support our small businesses,” said Deutsch. “They have been suffering for way too long and now it’s time for them to recoup those losses.” Shopping locally also brings with it the opportunity to help friends, neighbors and relatives through what has been an unusually difficult time, noted Boro Park Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein. “We are all in this together and at the end of the day, when our local small businesses thrive, our community thrives,” said Eichenstein. “We need to look out for each other and be there for each other.”