Bend Chamber honors OSU-Cascades students, local businesses through Stories of Resilience

Members of the OSU community share hand sanitizer on the lawn of the OSU cascades campus. 

Angela Tam, News Contributor

To honor local organizations in central Oregon, the Bend Chamber of Commerce debuted their Stories of Resilience series. As of Jan. 8, they released two episodes featuring local businesses. 

OSU-Cascades, non-profit Heart of Oregon Corps and Bend, Ore. local beauty store Wren and Wild were among the twelve organizations featured in the second episode of the series. 

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many students and small businesses have been significantly affected in some way due to Governor Kate Brown’s orders for statewide shutdowns and Center for Disease Control guidelines. 

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“For over 30 years, our annual SAGE event has highlighted the most successful and innovative businesses throughout our community,” said OSU Alumni Finn Leahy, event and programming lead to Bend Chamber. “With 2020 being anything but normal, we thought it would be inconsiderate to name winners during such a challenging year. Instead, we wanted to focus on telling the stories of businesses that were showcasing resiliency in the face of adversity.”

Throughout 2020, OSU-Cascades students developed a digital platform to share information and opportunities, onboarded incoming students during a summer-long engagement effort and contributed to a healthier student and Bend community. 

In contribution to assist the community to respond to the effects of the pandemic, several student interns partnered with the Bend Chamber to build SOS Central Oregon — a program intended to support both employers and students. 

“[The students] have really risen to all of the challenges and have been innovative and generous,” Director of Communications and Content Strategy Christine Coffin said. “And they’ve helped to build a healthier and safer campus; it’s been really remarkable to watch.” 

Heart of Oregon Corps faced a large setback as previously-committed state funding was lost to operate their largest program: Central Oregon Youth Conservation Corps. 

However, the urgent fundraising appeal that was launched raised enough funds within 10 days from community partners and individual donors to operate a modified version of the popular program.

Development and Operations Director Rebekah Altman said via email the non-profit organization was incredibly touched by the results of the fundraising. 

“This experience also underscored the strength of our partnerships and confirmed that our work is valued within this community, which is so heartening in times like this,” Altman said. 

The non-profit also chose to prioritize youth communication during Brown’s state shutdown, providing case management and referral services as needed. With the federal funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, they also managed to provide wages and stipends to workers. 

“The health of our young people and staff has remained a top priority,” Altman said. “[The] ability to continue operating is largely due to the diligence of everyone involved to write, train, and implement this protocol.”

Owner of beauty store Wren and Wild Mandy Butera also stated that the Bend community has given much support to her business. From everything such as ordering online and curbside pickup to wearing masks and social distancing, Butera expressed her gratitude for the support. 

At times, however, some customers did not enter the store with masks, or wore masks that did not fully cover the mouth and nose. These moments posed challenges for Wren and Wild in the earlier months of the pandemic, but Butera said customers have been improving on following CDC guidelines. 

“When you start a small business, anything you think is going to happen is not going to happen,” Butera said. “Something else is going to happen, and you just have to find a way to work around it. That, I think, is a true resilience in small businesses. You just have to keep going.”