Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has donated $1 million to help 80 small, locally owned businesses in his hometown of Chico and all of Butte County, California.
Those 80 restaurants and retail businesses will receive grants to help cover rent for, on average, three months or longer and/or other operational costs through the Aaron Rodgers Small-Business COVID-19 Fund at North Valley Community Foundation in Chico. The grants will total more than $1 million.
Nine of the business owners were notified personally by Rodgers and NVCF President and CEO Alexa Benson-Valavanis in video calls, which can be viewed on Rodgers' Instagram account (Those videos are also embedded at the bottom of this post.) They include Kona's, Pueblito 2, AcaTaco, Great Harvest Bread Co., Naked Lounge, Cal Java Esplanade, The Bookstore and Smokin' Mo's -- all in Chico -- as well as Nic's Restaurant in Paradise.
"Small, locally owned businesses are the heart and soul of a community," said Rodgers. "In the applications and the videos, it was heart-wrenching to hear about all the obstacles facing restaurants and retail establishments. So many of them are struggling just to stay in business but remain hopeful that there's an end to this."
The fund was started in early February with a $500,000 donation from Aaron Rodgers, the Chico native who is a three-time NFL Most Valuable Player. After seeing the need, Rodgers decided to increase his donation to $1 million. It was augmented by $100,000 from NVCF, an anonymous donation of $100,000 and a generous donation from Sherry and Gary Holbrook of Holbrook's Clearance Center.
"Aaron is such an incredible person. He looked at everything, decided he wanted to do more, and doubled down on his original $500,000 commitment," said Benson-Valavanis. "He is such a champion for his hometown."
Rodgers has been a valuable contributor to his hometown for years but especially stepped up after the Camp Fire ravaged Butte County in November 2018. He donated $1 million to Camp Fire recovery through a fund at NVCF that eventually raised more than $3 million as his fans and business partners like State Farm got on board. Rodgers was a founding member of the Butte Strong Fund along with NVCF and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. The Butte Strong Fund and other Camp Fire funds have granted $37 million for fire relief and recovery. Rodgers also has been involved in coronavirus and North Complex Fire relief efforts.
"Whether it's wildfire recovery or trying to help in a pandemic, the role of philanthropy and a community foundation in any disaster is doing our part to stabilize the community. This does exactly that," said Benson-Valavanis. "Butte County needs healthy businesses to preserve the fabric of our community, and fortunately Aaron and our other donors recognize that."
NVCF has mobilized more than $2.2 million in grants for coronavirus relief through various funds.
Restaurants and retail businesses with 20 or fewer full-time equivalent employees could apply for help through the Aaron Rodgers Small-Business COVID-19 Fund. Businesses from throughout the county are represented in the grants. Under state-mandated restrictions, restaurants in Butte County still cannot allow indoor dining.
Here are the 80 businesses that applied for and received a grant:
Nic's Restaurant, Great Harvest Bread Co., Sin of Cortez, Crush, Papacito's Cantina, Broadway Heights, Farmers Skillet, Pueblito 2, Happy Day Restaurant, Daycamp Coffee, Cafe Coda, Kalico Kitchen Inc, Grande Burger, Gridley Grill & Crab Shack, Campus Bicycles, Nor Cal Brewing Company, Smokin Mo's BBQ, Momona, Pita Pit, Big Chico Burger, Sicilian Cafe, Kinders Meat Deli BBQ, Om Foods, La Cocina Economica, Acataco #1, Park Avenue Pub, Bacio Chico, Bidwell Perk, Kona's, Aonami Sustainable Sushi, British Bulldog Brewery aka The Allies Pub, Toni's Cafe, PB&J Boutique, Brock Enterprises, Sounds by Dave, Thai Basil, A&J Party Center, Apollo Music and Arts, 3 Seas, Sipho's Jamaica restaurant, Noodle House, Sweet Chico Confections, Wheeler Ranch and Feed, The Bookstore, The Watchman, Kirk's Jewelry, Naked Lounge, Tender Loving Coffee, ATK Lighting and Electric, Town and Country Liquor and Video, Garibaldi's Catering, Cal Java Coffee Esplanade, Chico Creek Coffee, My Oven's Meals, Gold Flake Saloon & Cafe, Awards Company, Zot's Hot Dogs and Deli, Everyday Vietnamese Cuisine, Carla May's New & Used, Apple Blossom Baby, Helping Hands United Incorporated, Gridley Auto Wholesale, Artist of River Town Studio at the Brushstrokes Gallery, Bakers Birkenstock, Chico Chamangos, The Black Kettle, Bryan's Bricks, Three BlackBirds Boutique, Gnarly Deli, Finders Keepers Home Consignment, A Beautiful Life Furnishings, Chatterbox Cafe, Green Paradise Deli Cafe on Wheels, Lovely Layers Cakery, Fiesta Taco, Bird Street Vendors, Bea's Back Porch, Thistle & Stitch, Mama Sattva, Deb's Scones & Cones
Here are the reaction videos from Rodgers' Instagram account:
Nic's Restaurant, Paradise, CA
Great Harvest Bread Co., Chico, CA
Pueblito, Chico and Durham, CA
Smokin' Mo's, Chico, CA
Aca Taco, Chico, CA
Kona's, Chico, CA
The Bookstore, Chico, CA
The Naked Lounge, Chico, CA
Cal Java, Chico, CA