AMHERST, N.S. – Social distancing is being promoted amid concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, and that has area business owners worried about the impact it could have on their small businesses. They are banding together to raise awareness about the importance of shopping locally while at the same time raising money to support the Cumberland Health Care Foundation. Through "We’ve Got This, Amherst", shoppers can purchase a box of $20 gift certificates from 20 Amherst businesses. Twenty per cent of sales will go to the foundation to purchase respiratory equipment for the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre. “I was chatting with a number of business owners around town and they are concerned — and rightfully so — because things are changing day by day. There’s a lot of uncertainty about what this is going to do to small businesses around town,” said Rebecca Taylor, who is a member of the Fibre Arts Festival organizing committee. “Restaurants, bars and stores depend on local support. I can’t imagine Amherst without our vibrant business community and we really need to rally behind them right now so they can continue and not have to stress about it while this is going on.” Taylor asked businesses if they wanted to participate in a promotion to rally the community and one of the business owners suggested raising awareness of the business community while at the same time supporting health care. “We know our hospital is going to be really pushed to the limit so the business community wants to make sure it’s supported as well,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for the community to support the businesses they know and love and it doesn’t really cost them anything because they get the full value of their contribution. It’s not a donation, they’re actually getting something for their contribution.” Each of the 20 businesses has supplied a $20 gift certificate. Each box is worth $400 with the businesses getting 80 per cent of that amount. At the end, if all 50 boxes are sold, each business will get $800 to help pay their bills during the crisis, and the foundation will get $4,000. With Easter and Mother’s Day coming, Taylor said, the gift cards would make an excellent gift. It’s also a promotion that could be repeated other times of the year, such as Christmas. To purchase a box of gift certificates, contact Taylor via Facebook or call or text her at 902-297-7944. Kathy Legere, of The Copper Tree Boutique, said her business is feeling the impact of the virus threat. “Normally at this time of year most customers are buying to go away on their vacations,” she said. “Small business owners don’t have the opportunity to close up and draw unemployment. If we’re not drawing in something there’s no paycheque.” Julie Hicks, of the Bicycle Specialist & Sport, said her business has been adversely affected by the early closure of the Amherst Stadium, but most of the parts for the bicycle season were already ordered and arrived before the virus impacted suppliers in China. “We’re lucky this didn’t happen at the first of the minor hockey season, and we’re lucky we ordered our parts when we did because we’re hearing some companies who were late are being told they may not get parts until June,” said Hicks. “The longer this goes on, though, the more we will be affected.” Ron Furlong, of the Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce, applauds the fundraising effort. “Hopefully in six months we can look back and say we are glad we did the things we did,” Furlong said. Furlong said it’s important for small business owners to know they are supported because many of them are working hard to get by and any disruption can threaten their future. “It doesn’t take a lot for small business to feel it so that’s why a project like this has so much value,” he said. While people are staying home more as schools and other programs are suspended during the COVID-19 crisis, he hopes small businesses are able to find ways to get their product to customers other than in the store.