By Sharyn T. Williams, VP, Marketing, Communications, Programs, and Events

In June, just weeks after the coronavirus hit the region, Robert J. Morton, president and CEO of bankHometown approached the Chamber with an idea.

With support from the bank’s board of directors and gratitude from the Chamber’s staff and board, on June 11, the $25,000 challenge grant was announced. The bank pledged to match dollar-for-dollar all donations made to the Chamber by members of the business community through Labor Day, up to $25,000.

The grant challenge was made with the hope and intent that other businesses would step up to help the Chamber sustain its programs and services in support of local businesses who have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“bankHometown salutes the Worcester Regional Chamber on their unwavering support of the small business community day in and day out, but especially during this pandemic. We were pleased to fulfill our $25,000 funding commitment to help ensure the Chamber’s services could continue uninterrupted,” said Robert J. Morton, bankHometown President and CEO. “With this grant and the recent opening of our second branch here in Worcester, we reinforce our commitment to community banking, to the Chamber, and to small business owners and residents across this city.”

And they did step up. Most notably, Craig Blais, president and CEO of WBDC announced that they would match the challenge made by bankHometown.

In a ribbon cutting and check presentation ceremony at the newly opened bankHometown branch location on Grove Street in Worcester, Morton, Blais, and a small group of representatives presented Tim Murray, the Chamber’s president and CEO with checks from their respective organizations.

At the event, Mr. Blais attributed the WBDC’s decision to contribute in such a large way to help sustain the efforts of the Chamber who helped launch them 55 years ago. A recording of the event can be viewed from a link on the homepage of the Chamber’s website: In addition to these large grants, several businesses and individuals made donations totaling $5,955. (A donor list can be viewed in the box below).

The Chamber’s vice president of membership development and finance noted that it’s been a tricky time to manage the organization’s finances. Layoffs and other cutbacks have helped but the Chamber is ineligible for any of the government-funded loans or grants and relies primarily on its membership to sustain operations.

According to Ms. Salem-Pervier, “Membership dues, sponsorship dollars, and program fees are the bulk of the Chamber’s sources of revenue. These grant donations will help us end the year in the black.”

The Chamber had continued to support the local business community throughout the pandemic while experiencing its own loss of funding from the cancellation of events and revenue-generating programs along with fewer new members joining and attrition due to business hardships and closures. The organization’s staff has stepped up to take on additional duties left by laid off workers and has added additional support services during this economic downturn including outreach to every member.

“We are grateful to bankHometown for recognizing the work the Chamber has done to support local businesses, especially during this pandemic,” Mr. Murray said. “We appreciate this generous donation to help us continue to provide those services to the business community.”

Organizations wishing to contribute may still do so by sending donations to the Chamber at 311 Main St., Suite 200, Worcester, MA 01608.