By Randy Arrington
When Liz Lewis first developed a new webpage to promote Page County about 18 months ago, the initial motivation was simple.
“We had so much going on, so many programs, that I wanted a way for people to keep up with what we’re doing,” said Lewis, who serves as coordinator of the county’s Economic Development and Tourism office.
Now, during a time of crisis for local businesses and the community as a whole, pagecountyliving.com has taken on a new role.
Under a section called “Small Business Strong,” the website features an image labeled “We are Fighters: Page County vs COVID-19.”
Under this heading, the site contains up-to-date information and links to other sites related to the COVID-19 outbreak in Virginia, notices about efforts being taken at local businesses, general tips and information about social distancing and hygiene, and links and resources for state and federal programs for small businesses and employees.
“We have created this webpage to bring you updates and tips for safely supporting local business. We are gathering information as it becomes available,” the site states on this page. “Join us in the fight against a virus that will not cripple our economy, but make us stronger as a community.”
The site lists local eateries that are now offering takeout and curbside deliveries, opportunities to purchase gift certificates and secure future purchases at some businesses that may be closed, special instructions for customers of service industry providers, how to get unemployment benefits for those who may be out of work, and numerous other resources and information that can help answer at least some of the questions local residents may have.
“I walked down Main Street a couple of times this week… It’s quiet,” Lewis said. “This is spring break time… many local businesses are banking on some of these weeks to get them to the busy time in the summer.”
This week — Page County’s Restaurant Week — falls particularly hard on local eateries, who are limited to only 10 customers at one time. But many, who wouldn’t normally do so, are making accommodations to provide deliveries.
Despite the fear and anxiety that many feel, Lewis says that she is seeing numerous signs of the community pulling together and local citizens helping one another to get through these uncertain times.
“The site in itself has a lot of dialogue trying to show the spirit of this community,” Lewis said.
Seeing some of the positives in an overall bad situation is a sentiment shared by Meredith Dees, program director of the Luray Downtown Initiative.
“We are trying to support small business during this difficult time,”
Dees said, “but it’s not just about making money.”
Both Dees and Lewis, along with the Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce, have been acting as collection points for rapidly developing news and notices about local business from closures, special hours, limited services, special services to help homebound residents, and many other efforts to not only try to keep some revenue flowing — but to help alleviate some fears and needs within the community as a whole.
“Our biggest goal right now is advocacy,” Dees said. “We want everyone to be safe, but we want them to know that our local businesses are still there and inform them on what they are doing. There are still lots of ways to support local business and the community as a whole.”
Some of those ways include volunteering to help (like delivering free meals being offered by schools to students who request it), or donating to various causes that are helping fight the outbreak of COVID-19.
Dees is posting daily notices through LDI’s Facebook page.
“”I’ve never seen such a push for social media, but that’s where a lot of people are getting their information,” Dees said. “It’s changing incredibly fast… hour to hour.
“It’s amazing to see us all be innovative… to keep some of these doors open … people working together.”