Aaron Rodgers, the acclaimed NFL quarterback who plays for the Green Bay Packers, has donated US$1 million to help small businesses in his hometown of Chico, California.
The Aaron Rodgers Small-Business COVID-19 Fund was created last month, in in conjunction with the North Valley Community Foundation (NVCF). The 2020 NFL MVP donated the money to help 80 locally owned businesses in and around his hometown of Chico, in Butte County, northern California. Restaurants and retail businesses with 20 or fewer full-time equivalent employees could apply for money through the fund.
"We are so grateful to be able to give hope to our community that we love so much, and share their incredible stories," Rodgers said on his Instagram page, sharing a video of the recipients.
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Nine of those businesses were personally notified by Rodgers and NVCF President and CEO Alexa Benson-Valavanis in video calls, which can be viewed on the athlete's Instagram account. They include Chico small businesses Kona's, Pueblito 2, AcaTaco, Great Harvest Bread Co, Naked Lounge, Cal Java Esplanade, The Bookstore and Smokin' Mo's. Nic's Restaurant in Paradise also received funds.
"Small, locally owned businesses are the heart and soul of a community," Rodgers said in a statement. "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."
Rodgers, who went to school in Chico, first began the fund with a US$500,000 donation in early February. He doubled it shortly thereafter. More than US$200,000 has been added in donations from other sources.
California has been the hardest hit state by COVID-19 in the US. A total of 52,489 people have officially died from the virus, with a total of 3.56 million cases, according to WorldoMeter. The state has seen demand at food banks grow 145 per cent during the height of the pandemic, according to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
Rodgers, an ambassador for Zenith Watches, donated US$1 million for recovery efforts from the fires that hit Butte County in November 2018. He made that donation through the NVCF fund, which eventually raised more than US$3 million with assistance from fans and corporate partners.