Bemidji Alliance gives Gifts of Hope for the holidays

With the hospitality industry struggling from coronavirus-related rules, the Bemidji Alliance is bringing back its Gifts of Hope campaign next week with a focus on restaurants, entertainment venues and gyms. The Gifts of Hope was first launched in the early months of the pandemic to support local businesses.

Bemidji Area Gifts of Hope Fund

BEMIDJI -- Several types of businesses ranging from restaurants to entertainment venues have been closed once again as the state fights to slow the spread of coronavirus.

With the hospitality industry facing challenges once more, Bemidji organizations have teamed up as they did earlier this year with a program that engages community support.

The Bemidji Alliance, which is made up of the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce, Visit Bemidji, the Bemidji Downtown Alliance and Greater Bemidji Economic Development, has brought back its Gifts of Hope campaign. Earlier this year, the Bemidji Alliance created the campaign, which made $40 gift cards to local businesses available at a $20 cost, with the program covering the rest.

The new version, set to run Dec. 14-18, will be focused on restaurants, bars, and other food service establishments, as well as hotels, gyms, fitness centers, indoor recreation companies and entertainment venues. Participating businesses will have their logos at the Bemidji Alliance's Gifts of Hope website , and customers can click on them to buy gift cards.

The gift cards will be for $50, and when a customer buys one, they'll get an additional $20 gift card for free. There will also be an option for buying the cards as a gift on the website.


Bemidji Chamber Executive Director Abby Randall said the effort began soon after Gov. Tim Walz's recent executive order to close such businesses until Dec. 18.

"We had a Bemidji Alliance meeting to really brainstorm what the next step is," Randall said. "We wanted to figure out how to help these businesses, because we know they're suffering because of COVID , and right before Thanksgiving was a really rough time to shut down."

Following the meeting, Randall said Greater Bemidji worked with the county to receive some grant funds and an effort was made to advocate at the state level for business relief. The third piece from the meeting was bringing back Gifts of Hope.

"We have a strong community that is willing to help with funds to keep our businesses going," Randall said. "The last campaign of Gifts of Hope, we were able to raise $240,000 from community funds to be interjected back into the economy. That doesn't even include all the sponsorships that went with it. We knew we had a good framework."

Randall said 55 businesses will have gift cards available as part of the campaign. To support the effort, those interested can contact Greater Bemidji Executive Director Dave Hengel at .

"The more funds we raise for Gifts of Hope, the more businesses we can support,” Randall said. "We want the community to think about using this around the holidays for gifts.”

The Bemidji Alliance is also teaming up with the United Way of Bemidji Area , too. The Alliance's website will have a donate button, which goes to the Pay it Forward campaign. Operated by the United Way, Pay it Forward funds will go toward families of hospitality staff affected during the closure and other families in need.

For more information about Gifts of Hope, visit .

What To Read Next
Get Local