MOUNT DESERT — Members of the Summer Residents Association (SRA), at their virtual meeting last Friday, celebrated their success in raising funds to help local businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic this summer.
In April, the SRA set a goal of collecting $500,000. When the campaign ended two months later, the organization had raised exactly $1,054,083.70 from 244 donors, including summer residents, year-round residents and area businesses. The SRA itself got the ball rolling with a donation of $50,000.
Nearly all the money that was raised for the COVID-19 Relief Fund has been distributed as grants to 59 businesses in Mount Desert, with 2 percent of the total being retained to meet any unanticipated costs or emergency needs.
The SRA board also gave $10,000 to the Mount Desert Chamber of Commerce for “the vital assistance it provided during [the fundraising and grant-giving] process and the important role it plays in supporting the local business community.”
SRA Treasurer Gary Madeira said expenses associated with the fund drive amounted to about 1 percent of the total amount raised, “so it was a very efficient fundraising campaign.”
Posted on the SRA website are thank-you messages from the owners of many of the businesses that received grants.
“Thank you…for putting some wind in our sails,” wrote Karl Brunner of Sail Acadia. “Your generous grant will help us through this slender season.”
Stephanie Reece of The Colonel’s Restaurant wrote, “The graciousness of the SRA members has made the 2020 season possible for The Colonel’s. The love for Northeast Harbor is proven this summer, with year-round and summer residents coming together to remain a thriving community.”
Linda Perrin of Island Artisans wrote that the SRA grant “seems like the silver bullet that could make all the difference to us.”
“We would not be open if not for your help,” wrote Teresa Gray of The Docksider restaurant. “The money came just in time for the business insurance policy due in June, and I would not have had the funds to pay it. The money helped us employ eight people who would have been unemployed.”
Before launching the fundraising campaign, the SRA surveyed local business owners and found that 40 percent of them were considering not opening at all this summer.
“As it turned out, only one business didn’t open, and that was a summer camp that was prohibited by the state from opening,” said SRA board member John Boynton.
He described the fundraising effort as “a great example of the bond between the year-round community and the summer community.”
Micki Sumpter, director of the Mount Desert Chamber of Commerce, said at the SRA meeting last week, “You all supported the businesses way beyond anything I thought could happen. It was unbelievable. We will be eternally grateful.”
Thanks in large part to the SRA, she said, “The businesses are doing pretty well. Nobody is doing great. Who would in this environment? But they have hope and they’re working at it.”
Sumpter said Chamber of Commerce leaders around the state and the Maine Tourism Association are “in awe of what you’ve done.”
“And Senator [Angus] King wanted me to let you know that he is very touched and very humbled by this.”