My turn, Bill Bucher: Support needed now to ensure survival of institutions

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 19, 2020

By Bill Bucher

In my role as the executive director of a major arts organization here in Salisbury, I am often asked what I see in the future for it and for the community in Salisbury.

As you might have already guessed, the future is not pretty.

It is clearer than ever before that the coronavirus pandemic will be a long, hard slog through difficult times for almost every part of our economy. Even so, small businesses and organizations like mine typically have a two-phased approach to surviving these times: what to do right now while our community is “sheltering in place” and what to do in the “post-apocalyptic” world that will follow?

I understand that, for my friends and neighbors who have been laid off or lost their jobs, survival must be the sole concern. How to help the community must be secondary. However, it will be better for all of us if we all work together to preserve as much of our community as possible.

Obviously, the symphony’s first priority has to be preserving what we have so that there is something left when we can open our doors again. Our citizens must be secure in taking care of their living expenses before they will agree to spend money on entertainment again. So, we can probably expect the arts to wait longer for recovery than other parts of the economy.

But do we how to hasten that day?

Here is a list of things that we all can do during the pandemic to preserve our community so that we are in a better position to recover once restrictions begin to be lifted:

  1. Buy from local businesses whenever it is possible to do so. It is tempting to order everything online and have stuff delivered directly to your door, but consider this: many local businesses are willing to deliver and, in many cases, for free. Some offer curbside service. Use the phone and be safe!
  2. Spend your money “strategically.” This is no time to look for “the best deal” to save a few pennies. Rather, think, “Which businesses do I hope will still be here when our economy recovers?” Patronize your favorite places.
  3. If you can afford to, think about ordering takeout or curbside food from local restaurants at least twice each week. What will you do if your favorite restaurants close? Go to Winston-Salem or Greensboro? Now is the time to choose and put your money into your choice. They will only be here later if they survive right now.
  4. When tipping is customary, tip as generously as you can. Restaurants that remain open are typically doing so in spite of the fact that their volume isn’t enough to pay the bills. Many have closed altogether. Their waitstaffs depend almost entirely on tips for their income, especially now that sales are down. Consider tipping at least 25% when you order take out or more than that if can afford to do so.
  5. Support your local newspaper. Our hometown newspaper has experienced a drop in income due to the fact that some local businesses can’t advertise sales and organizations like mine cannot advertise for shows. Consider taking out a personal ad to encourage or thank your fellow citizens or simply give a donation to the paper, which has encouraged so many fundraisers for others.
  6. Give to the United Way COVID-19 Relief Fund. When giving to charities to help our citizens, choose those which specifically benefit Rowan County citizens instead of sending your money outside of the community.
  7. Take special care of yourself and family members, especially with social distancing precautions now being recommended. If we can keep people out of our hospital, we may be able to avoid overcrowding and exhausting resources.
  8. Take time to thank first responders, medical employees or other “essential workers.”  They are risking their lives every day to do their jobs, not just for the pay, but for you and your family. Think about what you would have to do if they weren’t there for you.
  9. Remember to support your favorite arts organizations as they try to survive until they can open their doors again. Give now to ensure their survival. When we do open again, I would encourage you to adopt an attitude of “attend if you can and give if you can’t.”

Many of these suggestions involve changing the way we have traditionally thought about how we manage and spend our own money. So they will require us to re-think our values and what is important to us.

Some day, we will look back on these days and wonder how we made it through them. I’ve heard it said that “this will be our Pearl Harbor moment,” and I would have to agree.  My hope is that we won’t look back and wish that we had done more at the time to help our friends and neighbors through them.

If we don’t, Salisbury and Rowan County will take a long time to recover when this is all over, if it ever really does.

Bill Bucher, Jr. is the Executive Director of the Salisbury Symphony.