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Newton-Needham Regional Chamber works with local businesses during coronavirus shutdown

Greg Reibman, president of the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber. (Leise Jones Photography 2015)
Greg Reibman, president of the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber. (Leise Jones Photography 2015)handout (custom credit)/Newton Needham Regional Chamber

Businesses and entrepreneurs around Newton and Needham have truly taken the brunt of the Covid-19 nationwide shutdown. Governor Charlie Baker issued a “stay-at-home” advisory in early March, forcing all “non-essential businesses” to close their doors for an indeterminate period of time.

Already one of the most active chambers in the state, the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber has continued to keep its doors open online, providing local businesses with the help and support they need during this shutdown period.

“We have seen a great need as we’ve always had as we are a resource for businesses," said Linda Sloane Kay, chair of the Chamber’s board of directors. "And now, since so many people are working from home and hungry to learn more and more about how their businesses can be helped or, in some regards, saved, they’re turning to the Chamber to really use this as a resource and guide them to where they should be looking to get help,”

Since the March advisory, the Chamber has had to change its operating model, completely eliminating all face-to-face interactions and meetings and, instead, instituting Zoom webinars and meetings to inform and educate businesses about next steps. The staff has also instituted news e-mail blasts, updating their membership on incoming news and updates as soon as they come in.

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“Where our work has been since we’ve moved home has been to organize a bunch of webinars for our members so they can get the information they need,” said Greg Reibman, president of the Chamber.

So far, the Chamber’s webinars have included talks with the Department of Public Health, HR experts regarding current employments and possible unemployment opportunities, an informational on online web tools, a session on mental health and well-being while balancing working from home, as well as a webinar with Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, her staff, and the Massachusetts Office of Business Development. Chamber staff have also been working directly with smaller, local businesses outside of their regularly-planned webinars.

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“The immediate concern was for the restaurants and small business owners,” said Reibman.

According to Reibman, the Chamber has built a specially designed website featuring all Newton and Needham restaurants that currently offer delivery and takeout. The Chamber has been prompting residents to look first to their local restaurants and eateries during this time, especially those working at “essential businesses,” as defined by the Massachusetts government.

“It’s important for the restaurants to help maintain business and for the employees so that they can continue to operate so they can pay their bills,” said Reibman.

The Chamber has also been working to publicize already-established funds and connecting businesses around the area. The Chamber has most recently worked with Feed the Fight Boston and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, buying prepared meals for hospital workers in the Boston area. The Chamber has also been working to team local hospitals and hotels as a means of providing rooms for hospital employees.

“We’re trying to educate as much as we can; we feel the plight of our neighbors here and we’re just trying to, if anything else, be a sounding board to help support those in need right now,” said Sloane Kay.

Haley Chi-Sing can be reached at newtonreport@globe.com.