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Destination Carlisle launches "S.O.S.: Save Our Smalls" to support small businesses and nonprofits

An initiative in Cumberland County seeks to support nonprofits and frontline workers while giving a boost to small businesses.

CARLISLE, Pa. — An initiative in Cumberland County seeks to support nonprofits and frontline workers while giving a boost to small businesses.

Small business association Destination Carlisle launched the S.O.S.: Save Our Smalls program, which will provide income to businesses to offer gift cards or products to local charities.

The program comes at a crucial time for small businesses. Shopping and eating out are usually down after the holidays, but many businesses were already struggling after months of lockdowns and restrictions. In addition federal aid has been held up and indoor dining remains closed in Pennsylvania.

“I have a place that’s open but I feel like I’m not working because it’s just not as busy as it once was,” said Tara Stasi, owner of Sunrise Cafe in Carlisle.

Stephanie Patterson Gilbert, owner of Carlisle shop Georgie Lou’s Retro Candy, helped form Destination Carlisle officially last summer. Now the group’s president, she said other Carlisle business owners agreed they needed income but didn’t want charity.

“If you know anything about small businesses we’re actually very proud people, very independent people and it kills us to take grants and have to rely on that kind of thing,” Patterson Gilbert said.

Save Our Smalls will use donations in $300 increments to buy gift cards or products from Carlisle businesses. Those gift cards or products will then be distributed to nonprofits or frontline workers.

“It might be nice to go do a giant $300 buy of French macarons and have those boxed up and then give those to a nursing staff, for example,” Patterson Gilbert said.

The initiative has a goal of raising $20,000 over the next three months. In its first day it raised $1,500, enough to buy gift cards from five businesses.

“For me $300 is significant,” Stasi said. “Every dollar helps.”

Stasi’s Sunrise Cafe will be one of the program’s first recipients. The cafe will provide food to emergency shelter Carlisle Cares.

You can donate to Save Our Smalls here.