My View with Heather Peeler: Local businesses make the difference

My View with Heather Peeler: Local businesses make the difference
Heather Peeler

Yesterday was the 11th annual Spring2ACTion, Alexandria’s giving day. It’s a day where Alexandrians came together to support the nonprofits that make our community a great place to live and work. This year, more than 50 local businesses participated as sponsors and business fundraisers. Their participation made an incredible difference!

“The whole town is coming together for people who need help. It’s a feel-good day,” Amy Rutherford, owner of Red Barn Mercantile and Penny Post, said. “That is why we are a part of it. To help our community, to help people who need it the most. These are our neighbors, friends and customers.”

Rutherford is a board member of ACT for Alexandria, the host of Spring2ACTion, and board chair of the Old Town Business Association. Through her King Street stores, Red Barn Mercantile and Penny Post, she has been a consistent supporter of the giving day. This year, she saw an opportunity to rally Alexandria’s entire business community in support of the nonprofits that are responding to the increased needs brought on by COVID-19.

“There is a symbiotic relationship between businesses and nonprofits,” Rutherford explained “Small businesses give 300 times more back to their community than the big box stores because this is our community, our friends and neighbors. We are connected to them.”

Alexandria’s business community has struggled in response to the pandemic. Public health mandates made it hard for many to operate, but they pivoted in creative ways. They relied on community members, and Alexandrians rose to the challenge by shopping and ordering local. Now, that sense of connection is driving businesses to give back.

“It was hard to ask businesses who were struggling to donate money. But there were lots of ways businesses got involved,” Lauren Fisher, owner of Del Ray Psych and Wellness and president of the Del Ray Business Association, said. Fisher was inspired by the many ways businesses promoted the giving day. “They posted flyers in their windows. Restaurants included information in their to-go orders. They helped spread the word.”

Businesses also played an important role in the event as sponsors. Burke and Herbert Bank signed on as a sponsor to support the business fundraisers and provided cash prizes to the businesses that raised the most dollars and engaged the most donors. The bank also provided cash prizes to the business association that raised the most dollars and received the most donors.

Other sponsors stepped up with support to underwrite the giving day and provide prize money to incentivize nonprofits, including: the City of Alexandria, the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, The Patterson Group, Guaranteed Rate, the Seward Group, ESP Tea & Coffee, Comcast, John Marshall Bank, KVS Title, Madigan-Schuler, Marks-Woods Construction, Sikich, Torpedo Factory Office Building and Verdence Capital Advisors. Several ACT donor-advised funds also sponsored the event including the Surviving Survivors Fund, Frantz Family Fund, Betsey R. Rosenbaum and Jon H. Rosenbaum Fund, Eshom’n Wilhelm Fund and the Giving Girls Fund.

“Spring2ACTion is a reason for all of us to come together,” Brittany Patterson, vice president of the Patterson Group, said. “It speaks to the power of Alexandria, the connection these charities have to our hearts, and their strength in our community.”

Spring2ACTion is a day where everyone can do something – large or small – to make a difference. Although the big day was yesterday, it’s not too late to give. The Spring2ACTion website,, will be active until midnight on May 2.

You can also check out all the participating businesses at https://www. Next time you visit a local restaurant, shop, salon or another Alexandria small business, thank them for being a critical partner in our community.

The writer is president and CEO of ACT for Alexandria.