ROCHELLE — Mayor John Bearrows, the City of Rochelle and the Rochelle Chamber of Commerce have teamed up for a new Community Cash program.
Community Cash can be purchased at the chamber office at 501 6th Ave. for a one-to-one dollar to Community Cash ratio. It can be spent at any local business displaying the community cash logo. The program is still in its early stages and the chamber has a social media campaign planned to let the area know which businesses are participating.
“Say a store takes in $50 worth of community cash, they come here and we'll cut them a check for $50,” Chamber Executive Director Tricia Herrera said. “There's no fee to be a part of it. The chamber is taking on the administrative fee part of it with our staff and printing and all of those things. Because it's just another way for our organization to support local businesses. We're going to do some window clings to identify what stores are participating. Once we hear back from everybody, we'll put a list together and keep it on our website. That will be updated as we go forward.”
Herrera said the program is something the chamber, mayor and city have wanted to do for a long time. Work was started on it just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and put it on hold. Bearrows has long been an advocate for the program and worked to bring it to fruition.
“I really have to give the mayor credit for working hard to move this forward,” Herrera said. “We love to partner with him. He's a very big supporter of shopping locally. Shopping local and shopping small are things we're very passionate about at the chamber."
Programs similar to Community Cash are used by other area chambers, Herrera said. She believes it will go a long way towards encouraging people to shop locally who maybe normally wouldn’t. She hopes it will help to educate the community on products Rochelle has that residents don’t need to leave town for.
Businesses large and small have already reached out to the chamber about interest in participating in the Community Cash program, Herrera said. Larger employers have asked about purchasing some to gift to their employees to both show their appreciation to them and support the community,
“Say an industry comes in and buys a bunch for employees, our local businesses get to be part of that,” Herrera said. “I think right now our next step is educating people on what the program is and what its goals are. Once people know that, I foresee it taking off. The fact that it's at no cost to anybody but the chamber is encouraging as well. You do not have to be a chamber member to participate in this program, But if you are a chamber member, we'll offer some different things for those businesses."
Herrera said during the pandemic, shopping locally became “a big deal” to support impacted small businesses. She doesn’t want that feeling within the community to go away as COVID-19 fades.
“I think the best things that came out of that time were the fact that so many businesses were supported and people learned what we have in Rochelle that they don't have to go out of town for,” Herrera said. “They maybe didn't know that prior to the pandemic. They didn't know services and products that you could get locally that you could support. I think this Community Cash program will continue to help with that.”
Herrera called the chamber fortunate to have strong partnerships, including with the mayor’s office and the city. She enjoyed working with the city on the Rochelle Municipal Utilities Shop Local program during the pandemic that saw RMU customers get a credit on their bills for shopping locally.
The Community Cash program may yield a lot of work for the chamber office, but that isn’t a concern for Herrera.
“We're hoping it becomes a lot of work,” Herrera said. “It's a program we've never done before. There will be some kinks early on such as helping everyone to know what the program is. I'd like it to become a lot of work, because that means people are using and supporting the program. Our biggest thing is we're willing to do whatever it is as long as it benefits our members. If people have questions, don't hesitate to shoot us an email or give us a call. I'm ready for another program to take off to help our members."