Bring Back the Beach Campaign

Lisa Konicki
We executed a comprehensive emergency response program including volunteer recruitment and raising $430,000 to give as grants to businesses.
Our community was the epicenter of Superstorm Sandy. More than 400 cottages and 29 businesses were devastated in October 2012, some washed away entirely. Within 36 hours of Sandy our Chamber formulated a muli-faceted response plan, created a logo and launched the Bring Back the Beach campaign. We engaged the entire two state community in our efforts. First, we harnessed the power of social media to recruit hundreds of volunteers to help businesses and home owners clean up their ravaged properties. We secured a sponsor for transportation and buses were used each weekend to bring in over 300 a day to shovel sand, empty buildings, remove debris, sort trash, clean, etc. We also organized numerous unique fundraisers to get the entire community engaged in the recovery efforts. We created a "Bring Back the Beach blonde ale" with a local brewery and sold out of the brew quickly, raising $5,000. We drew Matrix Hair Care to our town for their annual "Spread the Love" campaign and they raised over $6,000 in proceeds from free hair cuts. We worked with local recreational facilities that coordinated Aerobathons, Karate Break-a-thons, Zumba-thons, and a Bowl-a-thon. We created 60 donation jars that had our Bring Back the Beach Logo and the note "your small change can make a BIG difference" and placed them on business counters throughout the region--collecting these coins netted over $6,000. We created a powerful power point display and coordinated a meeting in neighboring Mystic CT with tourism leaders. They watched the images of our devastation and learned figures about the number of jobs and taxes that would be lost if we did not receive. they also learned about the multiplier affect of losing those hotel rooms and the guests that patronize their businesses just over the border. They came to understand that our recovery would have an economic impact on admissions and sales in their community. Within 7 minutes of the meeting having been started, those business leaders donated a combined $47,000 on the spot. We sold t-shirts and sweatshirts with our Bring back the Beach logo and raised over $48,000 with that effort. These items were purchased from people in 32 US states. We coordinated a black tie masquerade event at Ocean House Resort and raised $102,000 in one night. Families held yards sales and donated their proceeds t our fund. teens held a grease recycling campaign and donated 411,000 to the fund. A family in town whose mother passed established a memorial fund in her name, with our chamber, and that raised another $6,000. We reached out to others chambers in the region and secured their support. The Northern RI Chamber secured over $1,500 for our campaign, the Central RI Chamber secured over $2,500, the Eastern CT Chamber and Mystic CT Chamber donated auction items for one of our fundraisers. Each month we hand delivered checks to the 29 businesses and gave them money as a free grant to help them with expenses that were not covered by insurance. We have no chain hotels or restaurants in the village of Misquamicut where the storm hit so these mom-and-pop establishments were truly dependent upon our assistance to recover. Some have gone on record in news articles or with the Town Council explaining that they never would have been able to open in May 2013 had it not been for our efforts and financial aid. Our chamber was exemplary in our efforts and made an impact that was incredible. no other chamber in any community hit by Superstorm Sandy did anything even remotely close to what we did. We were the only chamber to raise funds for businesses, (we gave to both members AND non-members) and we gave $430,000 in total. We secured a large camper and set up a welcome center in the heart of the storm zone so that people could come and buy shirts, make donations, learn about volunteer opportunities, etc. Our chamber donated 100% of its staff time for each and every one of these initiatives. 100% of every penny donated went to the businesses. In addition to the fundraising, our office delivered free lunches to the business owners and their staff on numerous days after the storm, while they worked to secure their property or start rebuilding. We served as the information hub for all business needs. FEMA was permitted free space to set up a satellite office here. The Rhode Island economic Development Corporation established a free office here to provide information on emergency loans and business assistance programs. We now spend time teaching other shoreline communities how to recover and be more resilient through design changes and business model adaptations.




Grand Prize

Feature in the 2015 Edition of Chambers of Inspiration