OTTAWA -- A local crowdfunding campaign has been helping get much-needed support to business owners in Wellington West and Hintonburg, who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the pandemic forced non-essential businesses closed and kept tourists away, a campaign to keep businesses afloat was formed.

The websit was launched to give residents a single place to find businesses that needed support. It's not a single crowdfund, but rather several individual campaigns under the same umbrella.

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA's "The Goods with Dahlia Kurtz", Dennis Van Staalduinen, executive director of the Wellington West Business Improvement Area (BIA), said the goal was to create a way to help businesses at no cost to them.

"We were looking for ways to help our community and directly support businesses in the greatest need," he said. "This program was basically just creating a platform with no fees and no cost to the businesses themselves, and no interference from us, we could help as many as we can."

The BIA created the campaign with support from the Ottawa Coalition of BIAs, Crowdfund Canada, and the McConnell Foundation.

Van Staalduinen said the BIA does not handle the money; donated funds go directly to local businesses.

Beyond the amount of money raised—so far, close to $30,000—the amount of support has been great to see, Van Staalduinen said.

"An even more important number, to me, is the 325 individuals that money represents. That's 325 people from our community giving money and investing in the local businesses. It really is an example of our very special and very dedicated community."

Businesses participating in the campaigns offer perks to donors like store credit, a donor's name on the window as a thank you, or things like water bottles or mugs.

Wellington Vision Care said it would donate $5 to the Parkdale Food Centre for every donation of $10 or more, which they describe as gift cards.

"We are not asking for donations. We prefer to think of this as selling gift cards! All 'donations' will be applied as a one-for-one gift card on the donors account with us," their campaign page says. "In addition to this, for every gift card purchased, we will donate $5 to the Parkdale Food Center. It is extremely important to us that we give back to our community, especially in these uncertain times."

Van Staalduinen said that spirit of community is not new to COVID.

"The real heartbeat of the community is the connection that we build with the community associations, with the charitable sector, with the social good actors in our neighbourhood who are helping us sew together a community that businesses naturally thrive in," he said.

Pandemic's toll felt in community

"I don't want to sugar-coat the pain, the stress, and the existential crisis these businesses have gone through," Van Staalduinen said, of the effect the pandemic has had on local businesses. "They've responded with this amazing positivity because that's who they are as entrepreneurs, but businesses in an area like ours have suffered, have hurt."

Van Staalduinen said he know of six businesses in the area that have gone under since the pandemic began. Others are at risk.

"At the end of every month, there's this cliff that they face in terms of trying to meet their lease and meet all of their financial obligations," he said.

His message to the community is to support local businesses.

"It's always important to support your local businesses. It's always important to think about investing money in the place in your community that is going to give back the most benefit to your community. Small, local, owner-in-the-store businesses are the biggest impact area that you can put your money into to build a better community."

He says, the next time you're thinking about hitting "confirm" on Amazon or Uber Eats, give it a second thought.

"Think, 'Is that something that I could buy in my local community? Is that something that a local online store is selling?' A dollar or two extra might help that business survive. If you're getting takeout, don't go through Uber Eats or Skip the Dishes, but go and pick up the takeout from the actual store. That way, the local business gets your support."