UGA School of Social Work provides support groups for small businesses during COVID-19

Solidarity Support web logo/graphic

Denali Lerch | June 18, 2020

To provide resources for local businesses affected by COVID-19, the University of Georgia School of Social Work is providing solidarity support groups via Zoom. These sessions are designed to help local business owners navigate stress and fatigue derived from running a business during the pandemic. The support groups will run from June 15 through July 20.

The support groups are free and offered weekly for “small business owners to connect with other business owners while addressing topics of stress, self-care, resilience, mindfulness and coping,” according to a Facebook post by the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce.

Solidarity Support Groups, a group within the UGA School of Social Work, consists of a team of faculty members and social work graduate students. Other support groups they offer are caregiver solidarity to address common issues with stress and resiliency, and sibling solidarity to provide a space for adolescent siblings with disabilities to connect with each other, their website says.

The business support group will run as a six-week series, covering various topics on mindfulness, stress and resiliency that comes from running a business in the time of a pandemic, said Shannen Malutinok, a faculty member in the School of Social Work. There will also be interactive activities, such as meditation and journaling exercises.

“We want to make sure the employers of these businesses are not only focusing on self-care with themselves but also learn ways to take care of their employees,” Malutinok said. “We understand employees are stressed and anxious during this time as well, so we have resources for them.”

The Athens Area Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the support groups to provide information about each business, which ones need help and spread the message to employers and businesses.

There is no limit to the type of businesses available to join the support groups. As long as business owners or employees might need assistance due to the economic, cultural and social shifts that have taken place since the pandemic, anyone is welcome to join, said David Bradley, president and CEO of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce.

This will be the first small business support group the organization provides due to the pandemic playing a major role in the success of the businesses, Malutinok said. Being able to navigate through the pandemic in a business environment is a learning experience for all, so the support group team decided to join together to share coping methods and strategies to keep the businesses running smoothly.

“It’s going to be different for us simply because it’s given over Zoom, where most often support groups are given in person,” Malutinok said. “We’ll try to make it as similar to the in-person meetings as possible, but there will still be that physical aspect missing.”

Moving forward, the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce is encouraging locals to continue to shop locally and will be administering their new program Ready, Set, Go Safely to reassure consumer confidence, Bradley said.

“While this new program is still being built, we encourage Athens citizens and locals to shop locally,” Bradley said. “The next time you go to buy something from Amazon, maybe ask yourself if it’s something you can buy locally to help out a business.”

The Solidarity Support Groups project will continue through early fall. For more information visit the Solidarity Support Groups website. This article originally appeared in The Red & Black.

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