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Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce turns to a fundraiser to survive

A large crowd gathers in 2015 during a Frederick Road Fridays concert. The popular music event was moved online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A large crowd gathers in 2015 during a Frederick Road Fridays concert. The popular music event was moved online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Nicole Munchel)

Due to the economic hardship resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce recently launched a fundraiser to benefit the organization so it can continue to support local businesses and nonprofits as well as sponsor large events in Catonsville.

Officials hope the Help Catonsville effort will allow the organization to survive during this stressful time. “We have well over a $60,000 shortfall in revenue directly related to COVID,” said Joe Poisal, president of the chamber.

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Along with its support of local businesses, the chamber hosts community events like the Catonsville Arts and Crafts Festival, the Sunday Farmers Market and Frederick Road Fridays, a summer concert series that supports local nonprofits, including The Children’s Home, the Fourth of July Committee and Catonsville Emergency Assistance (CEA), according to its website.

Because of the pandemic, many of the events were canceled or moved online, like Frederick Road Fridays, disrupting the revenue stream used to support the community.

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Although membership is voluntary, the chamber benefits businesses and organizations through networking, seminars and relationships within the community.

“The chamber does not receive any kind of government funding, per se; it is a member-supported organization that is also financially supported by chamber events,” Poisal said.

The 285-member chamber relies on the income generated from in-person events like the Arts and Crafts Festival and Frederick Road Fridays, however, due to their cancellations, it has had to find other ways to stay afloat, he said.

“COVID has canceled every event except the farmers market,” he said. “We came up with some ideas and what we came up with was to publicly announce that the chamber was in financial trouble.”

On the home page of the chamber website, a link takes community members directly to the fundraiser website. There, information is provided on the organization’s financial state, whom the fundraiser will benefit and the option to donate $5 to $200.

Teal Cary, executive director of the chamber, said the fundraiser, which launched last week, does not have a specific dollar goal in mind, but instead serves as a cry to the community.

The fundraising effort has not yet been promoted on social media, however, besides the chamber’s website, it is noted in the organization’s newsletter, she said. In addition to the fundraiser, the chamber has received contributions from anonymous donors.

Cary said she hopes the fundraiser will help the chamber to make it through the pandemic so it can continue to sponsor events in the community.

“If the chamber does not exist, then those things will not be happening,” she said. “The chamber is hurting financially because we cannot do our big fundraiser [events]. [The fundraiser] will help us stay alive and keep the chamber operating until we get through this.”

She stressed that a community-wide effort is needed.

“Those large community events keep Catonsville residents in Catonsville and help the local economy and the quality of life here,” she said. “When you support our local artists and you put on summer concerts, that gives a sense of community. I would like to see the community support [the chamber] so we can still do those events.”

Kathleen Carr, who works at Erie Insurance Upper Chesapeake Insurance Agency and serves as a chamber board member, said since the pandemic hit the organization has had to make adjustments to its events to ensure the safety of the community.

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Large-scale activities like the Arts and Crafts Festival and Frederick Road Fridays were canceled or moved online, while the Sunday Farmers Market was delayed and altered to adhere to social-distancing guidelines.

Since the fundraiser launched, she said the response from the community has been positive.

She said it is important for communities to help one another not only during the pandemic, but beyond.

“There is power in joining together and collaborating as people, whether it be businesses, neighbors or the community,” she said. “It is important for people to band together because we are stronger together.”

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