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The Madison Jaycees, a local civic organizations whose work has focused on Madison issues and people, has recently found itself in a unique position to help those in need, leveraging both an extensive social network and money from a reserve fund to support local businesses and anyone else struggling during the pandemic.
Recent initiatives by the Jaycees include a grocery store gift card program, which identifies families in need and provides them with a week’s worth of food, and an emergency fund to pay money directly to families who have suffered job or wage losses.
But according to Vice President Ryan McMillan, one particularly unique way the Jaycees has responded is by supporting local businesses struggling through the crisis—the same businesses that have repeatedly donated their time and money to fundraisers and charitable causes in Madison over the years.
“We kind of do that every week, just highlight either a sponsor or a Jaycee business in the community...to just really remind people, ‘Don’t forget these are folks in the community that provide services that we use every day,’” McMillan said.
So far, the Jaycees has put together two distinct programs that seek to uplift these businesses that are still contending with decreased revenue and other issues.
One, which focuses on restaurants and eateries, chooses a business every week for a coordinated take-out night by Jaycees members, McMillan said—a sort of raid, with Jaycees themselves together ordering food, beverages, or other products, and simultaneously promoting that business to friends and colleagues.
That program, which has already proved to be an upbeat and popular way to both bring the community together as well as direct much-needed patronage to the business, started two weeks ago with Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale as the first target—a business McMillan lauded as being a longtime force of good in the community, sponsoring the Jaycees annual Turkey Trot for many years.
McMillan said that as they expand the program, he hopes to get more of the community involved, and turn the take-out blitz into almost a town-wide spotlight using social media and the Jaycees’ extensive email distribution list.
“We’re going to post it and say, ‘Hey guys, this week the Jaycees are going to order from XYZ company—feel free to join us if you can,’” McMillan said.
The other program, which is for non-restaurant business owners in the area, aims to simply bring attention to real estate and insurance agents, lawyers, doctor’s offices, retail, and “a whole host” of other places—again, spreading the word through all the connections the Jaycees have made over the years, reaching around the shoreline to alumni and any other folks who know and trust the organization.
Though some of these folks are still limited in the services they can provide, McMillan said he felt the Jaycees had the unique ability to give back to these businesses, and coalesce support for them when they need it most.
“We really have, I believe in a meaningful way, stepped up to really help the community in a lot of different ways,” McMillan said.
The Jaycees has also used its reserve fund to put together other emergency programs, which have paid out thousands of dollars for groceries and direct payments to struggling residents, again identified through the Jaycees’ network, McMillan said. The group has also committed to paying the full amount for its annual Daniel Hand High School and Guilford High School scholarship funds for both this year and next year, according to McMillan, despite the uncertain financial times.
These programs will go on as long as needed, or as long as the reserve fund holds out, McMillan said, though the business highlights are something the Jaycees hope to do indefinitely as a free and simple way to give back.
“Even if we don’t have events this year, we’ve raised enough money over the last several years to kind of help out...we wanted to be in a position that when the community needed us the most, we could help out,” McMillan said.