Local Lenten Generosity Challenge Supports Businesses Struggling From COVID-19

Local Lenten Generosity Challenge Supports Businesses Struggling From COVID-19

OKEMOS - The Okemos Community Church is asking people to be a part of their Local Lenten Generosity Challenge that will help support local businesses and the Okemos Community Food Bank from Feb. 17 through April 4.

The challenge uses a Lenten bingo card with 49 acts of local generosity on it, from supporting Black-owned businesses to engaging in a fun activity, the church asks that participants pray, praise, promote, or purchase from local businesses.

Rick Blunt, the senior pastor of Okemos Community Church, said he believes local businesses are struggling from the COVID-19 pandemic and could use the support from the community.

“We decided that really, we wanted to support the businesses, we see them as vital and critical to our community,” Blunt said. “They often support local causes and we just felt it was time to intentionally seek to reach out and help them during this season.”

One of the businesses featured on the bingo card and was impacted by the pandemic is Great Harvest Bread Co. in Okemos, Michigan, owned by Ken and Sue Ulrich.

“We just kept trying to pretend everything was normal,” Sue Ulrich said. “We would bake our full batch of bread and cross our fingers, and some days we would sell everything, and some days we would have so much left that it was a little scary.”

Sue Ulrich said when the pandemic first hit they had to stop making sandwiches and had to reduce the number of tables and chairs inside, which led to a slower customer flow, but when their business started to struggle, the community was what kept them going.

“We felt a real warm hug from the community because they really just wanted us to succeed.”

Ken Ulrich said he is proud that Great Harvest Bread Co. is being included in the bingo card and he is proud of the community.

“I think it’s so important that the community is supporting us,” Ken Ulrich said. “If they're praying for us or praising us or purchasing from us or promoting us to their friends, all those things are terrific for us, and I guess our message to the community is we’re here for you because we know you’re there for us.”

Blunt said anyone can participate in the challenge and that the bingo card is not overtly religious. The bingo card can be downloaded on your computer or cellphone, or you can pick up a hard copy at the church.

Blunt said participants can also track their progress and spending through an anonymous survey.

“On every square there’s a place you can check off whether you prayed, praised, promoted or purchased, and how much your purchases were and what business you supported,” Blunt said. “We also have an anonymous survey monkey site where you can go to and report those statistics so that we have an idea of what is going on.”

Blunt said after the first week, there were six responses from the anonymous survey and over $1,000 spent so far.

People can also donate items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and lotion to the Okemos Community Food Bank during this time, Blunt said.

“Every week we’re inviting people to donate personal needs items that we give to our food pantry families with a different kind of item listed every week,” Blunt said.

Blunt said he hopes his congregation will see a connection between their faith that calls them to make a difference in their community and that local businesses will be supported.

“I hope it helps our local businesses, I really think a lot of them are struggling,” Blunt said. “I hope it helps financially, but I also hope it helps them recognize that they are being thought of by their community and the community is seeking to help them out.”

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