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‘SOS Bend’ lets people pay in advance to help small businesses survive

(Update: Adding video, comments, change in how website works)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Bend Chamber, City of Bend and East Cascades Works recently launched the website SOS Bend, to help small, locally owned businesses in Bend struggling to make ends meet.

Matt Abrams, a volunteer with SOS Bend, said Tuesday the website will help provide small business owners cash flow through customers who pledge their support.

Previously, SOS Bend offered a credit system, meaning customers could purchase credits from businesses through the website and redeem the cash value in store once the businesses reopen.

Abrams said SOS Bend had to revamp the system before it opens to the public next Tuesday to make some modifications. Instead of purchasing credit, Abrams said customers will be able to pledge their support in a dollar amount. 

The previous system also said SOS Bend would send out a code to redeem in-store credit, but Abrams said they will no longer send out codes to customers. Instead, business owners will reach out to their supporters who have pledged a dollar amount to complete the transaction.

“It’s the landing spot where we as a community can be stakeholders across the board,” Abrams said. “Otherwise, it’s a one-to-one. It’s finding what's the website, landing page, etc. So I think part of this is galvanizing the community’s support and putting a spotlight on local businesses.”

Abrams said there are about 30 volunteers operating SOS Bend. 

“Our community and our involvement is a contact sport,” Abrams said. “There are so many people right now during this crisis rolling up their sleeves with no benefit to themselves other than to help others.”

He said strong partnerships between civic organizations across Bend and Deschutes County contributed to the launch of SOS Bend.

Jen Pasko, the owner of Just A Little Charm in Bend, said she signed up for SOS Bend immediately after she heard about it.

She said closing down her shop, paired with canceled art shows and festivals, has not just affected her business, but also the 10 local artists who sell their work out of her shop.

“Most artists are starving by April anyway, and then shows, certainly for me, would have started last weekend,” Pasko said. “So it’s hard. We’re not starving artists, but we do rely on our art.”

Pasko said she’s been in business for nine years and owned her shop in downtown Bend for five years. She said she plans to do everything she can to stay open during the pandemic.

“I don’t want to be forgotten,” Pasko said. “I think a lot of the shops downtown, because no one’s really walking around or shopping -- we just don’t want to be forgotten in the process.”

To show your support for small businesses in Bend, visit SOS Bend’s website

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Rhea Panela

Rhea Panela is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Rhea here.


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