Newspapers are in a unique position to be the force that pulls their communities together during this COVID-19 pandemic. The Star Democrat, in Easton, Maryland, is seeking to do just that with its #TogetherTalbot campaign being launched this week in the county where the newspaper is published.
Jim Normandin, president of APG Chesapeake, said the #TogetherTalbot campaign came together because of the COVID-19 crisis, but is something that he wants to see continue down the road, as well — as times improve in the community.
Greg Mueller, video producer and visual editor for APG Chesapeake, echoed that sentiment. "COVID kind of woke us up" to the need for a program to bring the community together, he said. He and the team from The Star Democrat who worked with Normandin to develop the blueprint for this effort, want to see #TogetherTalbot grow into something that will continue well into the future.
Talbot County, which sits outside of Washington, D.C., is a wealthy and very philanthropic community, Normandin said. But, now, with so many residents out of work, there is a lot of need. "We felt like, with our presence, we could unite the community."
Through the campaign, businesses in the area are being called on to "bring some light to Talbot County." Every business that joins the campaign will have their name printed in The Star Democrat and will receive #TogetherTalbot window clings for their storefronts and vehicles.
Businesses also can purchase t-shirts from the paper with the #TogetherTalbot logo and "brought to our community by ..." message that includes their company name. Normandin said the paper was able to purchase the t-shirts for about $5 each and is giving the first 1,000 shirts away free — "brought to our community by APG Chesapeake" — to area residents who sign up to be part of the initiative. Businesses that purchase shirts from the newspaper with their company name under the logo can determine how those shirts are distributed.
"In uncertain times, communities rely on their leaders to light the way," the promotion to local businesses reads. "Set an example, and show your customers, and your community that you're here for them."
There are more perks to entice businesses to take part:
The response to this week's soft launch has been very encouraging. Three major companies — APG Chesapeake, Konsyl Pharmaceutical and the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce — have already committed to the initiative. The Easton Rotary Club has expressed interest, asking: "How can we help?" And, interest has been expressed from Choptank Transport, Chesapeake College and Easton Utilities. With numerous invitations having been extended, Normandin feels confident that the founding 10 members will all be identified shortly.
The soft launch to the public is rolling wth great momentum, as well, he said. It's been "very exciting" to see the quick reaction of residents, he said.
Residents who sign up will receive window stickers for their cars and everyone is being invited to share on APG Chesapeake's TogetherTalbot Facebook group: facebook.com/groups/togethertalbot. "While we can’t all get out and make a difference, we can lift each other up and share our experiences through Together Talbot, an online extension of our community that is free to Join and Share to," The Star Democrat encourages. "Whether you have a funny family video, a lifehack, or a crafting idea, a killer recipe that just needs to be shared, or even a song you can’t get out of your head."
"Our goal is to instill short and longer term unity around Talbot County residents and businesses," Normandin said. He said APG Chesapeake does a lot of very aggressive selling across the 14 counties in Maryland. That's not what this is about. "This is one way for us to give back and for companies to come together and do something for the community."
While the start to this campaign is designed to be low-key, he believes this is a program that has the opportunity to go much further.
During a meeting that Normandin had with several companies at a Chamber of Commerce meeting, the school superintendent noted that the school system is struggling to serve hundreds of lunches every day to school children who are in need. "There are so many people who want to give, but there's no real avenue to do that," Normandin said. "If this initiative could help to raise funds to sponsor school lunches even one day a week, that would be huge," he said.
In recognition of the dedicated work being performed by Talbot County nurses, the above ad will run this Sunday in The Star Democrat.
Once the initiative at The Star Democrat is rolling, Normandin plans to introduce this program at newspapers in additional communities that he oversees. He also invites other newspapers across the America's Newspapers membership to borrow the ideas and to reach out to him or Mueller if they have further questions. You can reach Jim Normandin at firstname.lastname@example.org and Greg Mueller at email@example.com.
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