WORTHINGTON — A T-shirt fundraiser coordinated by the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce Retail Committee is giving a financial boost to local businesses that are suffering in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “Worthington Strong” T-shirts were in production this week, with the first orders being shipped out or ready for pickup at Family Value in downtown Worthington by the weekend. Roberta Fultz and Laura Shefte, who co-chair the Retail Committee, said the idea for the T-shirts came about as a means of people helping each other and showing unified support for their community and its businesses.

“This current health crisis has hit us hard,” Fultz said. “Our area has been the state’s biggest hotspot, and in order to keep everyone safe and comply with state regulations, most of our local retailers are operating on a very limited basis or closed entirely.

“This is devastating for small businesses, as there has been a sharp drop in income, but rent, bills, storefront costs, employee payroll — all the costs of operating a small business — are still due,” she continued. “We wanted to make a statement that our business community will weather this storm. We’ll get through this together.”

Shefte added that committee members agreed that one of the best things it could do was to reach out to the community and promote a message that business and people should come together.

“As the owner of two small downtown businesses, I personally know the financial effects,” Shefte said. “I have been closed since a week before the official stay-at-home order went into place.

“Fortunately I do not employ anyone else, so I haven’t had that additional burden,” she continued. “However, my payments still have to be made on time, with no income to fall back on and little relief in my situation.”

Shefte said she didn’t qualify for loans and grants available through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, adding that she’s not alone in that situation.

“Our business community has been able to come together and support each other, personally and professionally, doing what we can for each other,” she said. “We all felt the shirts were a great way to portray that to our community — to ask them to stand strong with us, and to support us as we go forward in these uncertain times.”

Fultz and Shefte explained that the T-shirts are being produced at cost, with one portion covering costs and the rest going into a “fund pool” for businesses that chose to participate. There are several businesses that wanted to participate in the campaign “but asked to let the funds go to businesses that were affected more than theirs,” Shefte said. Several businesses have also chosen to donate money to the campaign.

The Worthington Strong T-shirts are gray with a red-and-black design, and come in adult and children’s sizes. Both pickup and delivery are being offered; the sale can be found at https://dglobe-worthington-strong.websitepro.hosting.

“We’d like to encourage sales to come in sooner rather than later, as we would like to get funds to those businesses that may be struggling to stay open,” Shefte said. “Even as we have been able to open up curbside, some businesses do not have a website or an online outlet, so unfortunately it is not a fix for all involved. Some need this help now.”

For more information or to order a T-shirt by phone rather than online, contact the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce at 372-2919.