Local Businesses Step Up

In May, Kathleen Donahue posted about a need for games for kids in shelters to play during the stay-at-home order on Labyrinth’s Facebook page. That's when donations really exploded. Some of the 150 games donated via Labyrinth to kids in the DHS Shelters. Photo: Anne Phelps.

Even as stores are shuttered, as they wait for their Payment Protection Loans to arrive, as they strategize to face an unknown future, many business owners are also lending a helping hand. Here are some of their efforts.

Labyrinth Donates Games to Kids in Shelter
It’s typical of Kathleen Donahue, owner of Labyrinth Puzzles and Games (645 Pennsylvania Ave. SE), that when she is asked to talk about her efforts to help the community even as her own business suffers, she deflects attention to others. She’s grateful to her customers for their concern and continued support. She’s grateful to Mr. Henry’s Restaurant, just down the street, for acting as a pick-up location for purchases from Labyrinth’s new e-commerce site, and to the Jason Martin Group, which selected her business as a beneficiary for their

Kathleen Donahue. Photo: Elizabeth Dranitzke/Photopia

Donahue downplays how she and Labyrinth are also coming out to support people, even now while her business has been closed and revenue is down as much as 75 percent. Last weekend, she took an idea brought to her by her friend Anne Phelps and spearheaded an effort to gather more than 150 puzzles and games for children staying in the District’s family shelter system, run by the Department of Human Services (DHS).

‘A Story of Kathleen’
“It’s such a story of Kathleen,” said Phelps. “I’ll tell you that here she is, so worried about her staff—as she should be—and a business she’s poured her heart and soul into in this terrible time, and yet despite all that is immediately moved to action to do something generous for her community.”

Phelps had learned of the need for activities for the children living in shelters through a colleague working at DC Council and shared the need on social media. Seeing it, Donahue immediately contacted Phelps, offering to acquire games at cost or to use Labyrinth’s Teacher Wishlist Fund, created to supply games to District teachers.

After Donahue posted about the need on Labyrinth’s Facebook page, Phelps said, it really exploded. “What was originally going to be sort of small but incredibly meaningful donation from a handful of folks turned into this enormous outpouring of generosity from a group of dedicated customers,” she said.

Customers donated more than $1,700, and Donahue used the funds to buy games at cost, stretching it to more than $2,000 retail and bringing three gigantic boxes of activities to Phelps so that she could arrange for DHS to get them.

The effort was a way to help people support Labyrinth as well as kids in shelter, Phelps said. “The galvanizing nature of Kathleen’s post and people wanting to help in some way I think it speaks to both the generosity of people,” Phelps said, “but also the loyalty people feel toward their local businesses.”

Donahue has been transparent about her fears for her business and her employees on social media. “We have 15 employees and I am absolutely terrified. What happens to them if we can’t make it,” she said. “They mean the world to me, and I just can’t let bad things happen to them no matter what as long as I can figure out something.”

You can continue to support Labyrinth by visiting their new online store. Items can be picked up from Mr. Henry’s Restaurant (601 Pennsylvania Ave. SE), which in addition to offering takeaway food and adult beverages between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. is also a pick-up point for Labyrinth’s neighboring businesses, East City Bookshop and Hill’s Kitchen.

Jason Martin Group Trivia Game Raises $1000’s
Local business owners, many of them facing their own difficulties, are working together to help one another get to the other side of the pandemic. One such effort spearheaded by the Jason Martin Group, is not just fun and games–but it’s all that, too. The team of real estate agents have raised $13,000 for nine small businesses over three weeks by hosting online trivia. More than 728 people have participated in Virtual Trivia Tuesdays so far.

The event has benefited nine small businesses in three weeks, including Hill favorites Trusty’s, Pursuit Wine Bar & Kitchen, East City Book Shop, Maketto, Bookstore Movers, Emilie’s and Barrel. On April 17, the game supported three new Hill favorites, including Hill’s Kitchen, Labyrinth Puzzles and Games and the Eastern Wine Bar.

If this was just me there’s no possible way I could do it,” John Coleman said of the Jason Martin Group Team, which works to put the online trivia game together weekly. Photo: Courtesy JMG

“We’re all looking for something to do. I mean, you can only watch so much ‘Tiger King’,” John Coleman of JMG said. “But it’s also a great way to offer support. People are looking for creative ways to give someone like Trusty’s money. This is a fun way where you can come in, contribute, have a fun time and then leave some money at the end. It’s a positive way to do it.”

Coleman said the event was originally just going to be a one-time deal, a way for his friends and neighbors to stay sane and connected while obeying the shelter-in-place order. However, after Jason Martin Group decided to use the event to support local business, it evolved into an outpouring of community support.

Proceeds from Trivia Night have allowed businesses to keep some staff working and offer additional services to their patrons. “Jason Martin Group has been an amazing partner for the community,” said Adam Kelinsky, of The Pursuit Wine Bar & Kitchen. “They’ve figured out a way to bring folks together at a time when people need connectivity and unification. It reminds us of the good times for a moment and offers a distraction from what’s going on around us.”

Now the project is hosted on gaming platform Twitch, allowing the team to integrate video, slides and music. Players sign up on Eventbrite throughout the week. On Tuesday morning, players get an email listing the partners and suggesting they enhance the pub-night atmosphere with takeout from partnering restaurants. About an hour before the game, they are sent a link to the stream for computer, fire stick or smart TVs. They also get a link to the answers form, which is filled out online as the quiz is happening and graded in real time.

Coleman said that putting the trivia event together is time-consuming, but it gives the team something to rally around, and a reason to keep moving now, while work has slowed for them as well.

“If this was just me there’s no possible way I could do it,” he said. He said members of the Jason Martin Group Team, especially Tim Holt and Mariah Henlsey are “the backbone in making it happen each week. I’m just the guy who gets to drink a beer in front of the camera and read the questions,” he said.

The Jason Martin Group plans to host weekly Virtual Trivia every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. as long as the players keep coming out. For more information or to sign up, visit www.fortheloveoftrivia.com. Watch the promotional video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5EhX4sTekE&feature=youtu.be