HARTFORD — More generous area residents are supporting the idea of “paying it forward” during the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce’s ongoing “Recharge Together” program involving Chamber Checks and Hartford area businesses.
In a Sept. 8 story in The Daily News, Chamber Executive Director Jennifer Guenther said the idea for the Recharge Together program came from an anonymous donor who was looking at ways to help recharge the local economy during the coronavirus pandemic. Through the donation, the chamber was matching requests for Chamber Checks up to a threshold of $10,000 that was initially donated by the anonymous donor.
“They wanted to help support as many businesses and organizations as possible without being specific to one,” Guenther said. “They wanted to spread the recharge to as many local businesses and people as possible.”
Guenther said on the day the Daily News story was published she was at her chamber office and an unknown person walked in the door.
“I asked if they wanted to order Chamber Checks and they said ‘kind of,’” Guenther said. “They said they wanted to pay for someone else’s Chamber Checks that was coming in and expecting to buy them and pay for them themselves. They said they wanted to pay for someone who had bought one of the maximum packages — someone who had ordered the $500.”
Guenther said the anonymous donor wanted to pay it forward and this was a way to do that.
“They said ‘Can you pick one of the piles that has the maximum?’” Guenther said. “So I grabbed the one closest to my hand and when that woman came in to pick them up and pay for her Chamber Checks, I told her that they were already paid for by an anonymous donation and that created a real emotional response.
“She said at first that she didn’t understand what I was saying,” Guenther said. “And I said that someone was in here yesterday after they read the article in the newspaper and they just wanted to do this and they asked me to grab the one that was closest to my hand and that was yours.” Guenther said the woman who received the anonymous donation was “very excited and very emotional because she’s a single mother trying to make things work.”
“She was in tears and asked how she could pay them back and let them know how much they appreciated the gift. And I said you don’t, just pay it forward,” Guenther said. “She said she was planning on paying it forward and taking some of the checks and giving them to others who need help. She’s a single mother trying to get by.”
Guenther said throughout that day when other people were picking up their Chamber Checks they were saying things like “I’m going to take some of the extra cash and pay the boy who’s been mowing the lawn all summer.”
“Those types of things,” Guenther said. “Someone else said they were going to give some checks to the two girls who babysit for them and they were going to give them a bonus before they go back to school.”
Guenther said one other family said at first they were going to use the whole $750 to buy glasses and pay for it all in one lump sum.
“But, then when they realized the mission was to support as many businesses as they could they said they were going to use each check at a different location in Hartford,” Guenther said. “They had 20 checks so they were going to take each check to a different location and use it and that would mean 20 different merchants would get some of the money.”
Guenther called the effort awesome and said many people have become involved since the program started.
“It’s just such a feel-good story and people are really trying to help others and pay back the kindness they’ve been shown,” Guenther said.
Guenther said earlier she anticipates the program is going to end up putting $30,000 into the local Hartford economy.