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July 6, 2020
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By contributing her social media marketing skills, Nicole White put her head together with friends Catherine Kiernan, Meghan McCartan ,and Amy Stefanowski to launch The Gift Card Project in Guilford and Madison, at The Gift Card Project allows community members help small businesses while also giving back locally to those in need or on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Brian White

By contributing her social media marketing skills, Nicole White put her head together with friends Catherine Kiernan, Meghan McCartan ,and Amy Stefanowski to launch The Gift Card Project in Guilford and Madison, at The Gift Card Project allows community members help small businesses while also giving back locally to those in need or on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Brian White )

White Helps Host The Gift Card Project

Published April 01, 2020 • Last Updated 09:42 a.m., April 01, 2020

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When four local women wanted to do something, fast, to help neighbors, local heroes, and small businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis, they put their heads together, brought their skills to the table, and launched The Gift Card Project.

Together with Catherine Kiernan, Meghan McCartan, and Amy Stefanowski, Nicole White makes up the motivated team that’s already sweeping up support from their Guilford and Madison neighbors.

To rev up The Gift Card Project, Nicole’s place at the table was to pull together a digital platform to spread the news of the idea: Buy a gift card to support businesses, then give the gift card to the project, to be given to those in need or those needing thanks. The cards are being distributed through local agencies and organizations.

As owner of Company Cubed, a digital agency with a social media focus, and as a partner in the real estate firm One + Company, Nicole, a Guilford resident, turned to her team to build and launch The Gift Card Project’s website: It took about three days to build and went live last week. By the end of the first day on March 26, supporters had already pumped $675 into local businesses by purchasing 24 cards, and a check for $1,200 was delivered from someone who wanted to help buy more, says Nicole.

The numbers keep adding up, rising to more than $2,500 during the past weekend and now heading higher as news media outlets began picking up the story.

Planting the Project’s Seeds

Nicole credits a past real estate customer, McCartan, who is also a marketing executive, with planting the seeds that are helping this project to bear fruit.

In the days following the state-forced closure of many small businesses, “obviously, everyone was pushing ‘Love your local, buy gift cards,’” says Nicole. “Then, I got a call from [McCartan], who moved to Guilford from New Jersey about a year and half ago. She doesn’t know a tremendous amount of people, but has four girls in town that are part of the schools. She said ‘I don’t really know anybody here, but I would love to help,’” says Nicole. “She has a lot of doctors and nurses that live in her neighborhood, and she wanted to try to collect gift cards and give them to the nurses and doctors and whoever is on the front line. She wanted to help put money into small businesses by buying gift cards, then give them back to others, somehow. She said, ‘Can you help me? You know a lot of people.’”

Nicole knew she could help and who to call—Kiernan and Stefanowski.

“I said, ‘I can certainly help you—I have the staff to come up with something [digital], but I’m definitely going to need more heads on this,’” Nicole says.

She reached out to Keirnan, principal of Guilford-based Kiernan Photography, “because she loves pushing things out on social, and she loves getting businesses involved,” says Nicole. “And then I also ran it by Amy Stefanowski, because she was trying to sort of do the same thing in Madison. She was buying gift cards and putting them out in her [home’s] greenhouse and telling people on Facebook they could come pick up the gift cards if they needed them.”

Stefanowski is a Madison resident and realtor.

“I figured it was a great marriage,” says Nicole of bringing the four of them together.

They then contacted several local agencies to come on board and get the gift cards out. They looked for groups which could help those facing financial insecurity, and groups connected to those combating the epidemic in health care and bio-med settings.

Currently, the project’s gift cards are being donated to assist local shoreline families through Women & Family Life Center and Madison Youth & Family Services, to thank health care workers through Yale-New Haven Health/Yale-New Haven Hospital and Middlesex Health, and to thank those working to ramp up ventilator production at Guilford’s Bio-Med Devices.

How to Help

Many businesses already allow customers to purchase gift cards online, Nicole says. Those cards can be sent directly from the business to the Gift Card Project by email to Nicole says emails have also gone out to local businesses to help those who may not be as familiar with maneuvering online gift card sales.

“We’re trying to make sure we’re curating a good enough email so they have all the information they need, so really all they’re doing is dropping and clicking,” she says.

Supporters buying gift cards on site at businesses that remain open or are offering curbside pickup can then mail the gift cards c/o One + Company, 350 Goose Lane, Suite 201B, Guilford, CT 06437.

Spreading the Word

When the project launched last week, many local businesses jumped in to help by spreading the word on their Facebook pages. Nicole’s also encouraging businesses that may not have updated their websites to support digital sales to work on getting them updated.

“It may be there’s going to be a time in all of this when we will be unable to leave [to visit businesses]. So I hope small businesses, in the next couple of weeks, are hopefully updating their websites and updating their homepages right now—and gift cards should be on their main page,” she advises.

She adds that gearing up social media connections to their businesses is a great idea, too.

Meanwhile, the four friends who pulled together The Gift Card Project will be doing their own sort of updating by adding to the “story” of the project at The Gift Card Project’s website, says Nicole.

“It’s kind of an easy story right now, to buy gift cards and donate them. By week three, four, or five, it may be a different story to tell. So we’re hoping with this website we’ll continue to have content to post, so there’s a story behind it, if the efforts are little different than they were in week one.”

Right now, the best place to gather all you need to know about The Gift Card Project is at the website, but a Facebook page for the project is also in the works and should be up and running soon, Nicole adds.

“I’m working on it, but I’m a little busy, between work and teaching parallelograms to my 3rd grader,” says this mother of three, laughing.

Nicole and her husband, Guilford High School (GHS) social studies teacher and head lacrosse coach Brian White, are both working from home. In addition to Brian’s work to undertake distance learning and office hours for his students, the couple has also been keeping busy editing lacrosse videos and posting them so that the GHS team can practice and stay motivated.

When the dust finally settles around the COVID-19 pandemic, Nicole says The Gift Card Project would love to celebrate by sharing news of a big tally of monetary support developed through the generosity of those who are responding to the call.

“It’s not us doing the fundraising. It’s really about the people in the community who are putting the money back into the community,” says Nicole. “So I’d love to see us get to a point where $10,000 was put back into the community, and we got to help people with that money. That would amazing.”

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