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Area businesses saw a flurry of gift card purchases last week.

The purchases were spurred on by the “Eat. Drink. Shop. Local” program, organized by the Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce.

The program asked community members to purchase gift cards at local Chamber of Commerce businesses then post a photo of those gift cards on the chamber’s Facebook page or email the photo to one of the chamber board members after which $20,000 donated by The Frederick Community Bank and Hudson Drug Shop would be used to purchase the same gift card from the same local business and provided back to the person who bought it.

Amy Swan, one of the program organizers, said the program was inspired by a similar initiative that had taken place in Champaign through Lantz Heating & Cooling.

“I thought it would be great for our community to do this,” she said.

Swan said a grant The Frederick Community Bank received provided the initial $10,000 for the program and Andy Hudson, of Hudson Drug Shop, provided a matching $10,000 donation to allow the chamber to present the program.

The hope, Swan said, was to help local businesses who had suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

“We just thought it would be a great way to help our local businesses that had suffered during the pandemic,” she said.

Justin Swan, The Frederick Community Bank president, said the bank was able to obtain a grant from a Federal Home Loan Bank in Chicago.

“We were able to get $20,000 if we could demonstrate that we had the ability to get this money out into our community to help people who might have been affected by the COVID-19 lockdown,” he said.

After receiving the loan, Swan said they took $10,000 of it to invest in Cissna Park, where they have a branch location, and dedicated the other $10,000 into the "Eat. Drink. Shop. Local" campaign.

“We were just looking for ways to maximize our impact,” he said.

After Hudson Drug Shop matched the $10,000 donation, Swan said that just made the potential economic impact even bigger.

“The pool was up to $20,000,” he said. “Obviously, if we’re going to match that, then the community has to go out and spend $20,000, so we thought that would have a good $40,000 economic impact on our community.”

Swan said he hopes this helps out local retail shops and restaurants that weren’t able to have their doors fully open during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Asked about the success of the program as of Thursday afternoon, Swan said it had been a major success.

“It’s been successful beyond our belief,” he said. “I think we went through $10,000 yesterday and I know there are tons of requests out there now. That was the idea behind the program, to get the money out the door as fast as possible and I think it’s achieving that goal.”

Swan expressed his appreciation for the Paxton community for supporting this program.

“I’m just excited that our community is willing to support these local businesses who need them right now,” he said.

Andy Hudson, of Hudson Drug Shop, said no business is an island and that realization prompted him to support this initiative.

“We realize with our business we’re not an island here in downtown Paxton,” he said. “For our business to survive and grow, it’s dependent on having successful small businesses surround us.”

Hudson said the issues that the COVID-19 pandemic caused for businesses throughout the state, especially for those small businesses that were forced to close for an extended period of time, inspired him to want to help out when he was approached about the “"Eat. Drink. Shop. Local"” campaign.

“We wanted to be able to support them because we’ve been able to stay open during these times,” he said. “And also support the community to help people out.”

Hudson was pleased to see the overwhelming reaction to the program.

“It just shows that people do want to get out and support their community,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot more cars in the downtown and the grocery stores. I know the restaurants have been busy. I think that what gives us hope for the future, that people are willing to come out and support their local business and keep things going and helps that cycle of money that comes back into the community and helps with our tax bases and helps support the businesses.”

Hudson said he also hopes the shopping that was prompted by this campaign will help people realize the many great opportunities there are to shop local.

“Of course people are looking for a good deal, but, hopefully, using the money and getting them into the store makes them realize we do have a lot in Paxton,” he said. “A lot of opportunities to shop local.”

The program turned out to be more successful than the organizers had hoped possible.

“We had more participation than we ever dreamed of,” Amy Swan said during a video posted on the Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.

People had responded to the program so quickly that the program had actually gone over it’s $20,000 budget by $13,000-$14,000.

Pro-Type Printing stepped up to help and donated $5,000 for the campaign to help cover the overage.

“With everything going on in our world right now, we felt an overwhelming need to do something to help,” Robin Niewold, owner of Pro-Type Printing, said in a statement on the chamber’s Facebook page. “To do some good and felt there is no better place to start than at home by helping our neighbors.”

The remaining $9,000 will be made up by The Frederick Community Bank and Hudson Drug Shop.

Justin Swan, speaking during a video on the chamber’s Facebook page, said the economic value of this campaign will be roughly $68,000 that was created in about a three-day span.

“I’m really proud of our community,” Swan said. “I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Hudson, also speaking during the video, thanked Amy Swan and the chamber for administrating the program.

“That was a lot of work and we do appreciate them,” he said.