The lights have been off at Lisa Wong’s gym in Chestermere since early April when group fitness activities were banned for a third time in Alberta, in an attempt to bring rising case counts and hospitalizations back under control.
“It’s been heartbreaking. It’s been emotional. Certainly the third time has been the hardest,” said Wong, who owns the F45 Training Chestermere.
Even with the lights off she said the ENMAX bill is over $900 a month and rent is $7,000. Every month, Wong takes on more debt.
“The bills don’t stop just because the doors are locked. The bills are thousands and thousands of dollars every month and the income is zero.
“There are days when I want to pull the plug but there’s other days where I am determined to make it work. But we are quite literally rebuilding from ground zero,” Wong said.
Wong is thankful for government grants but said they don’t do enough to cover the bills.
To help local business owners, Chestermere resident and former business owner Laurie Dunn has started a fundraising campaign with the help of fellow resident Michelle Eldjarnson.
The goal is to raise $50,000, with money being distributed to qualifying businesses.
“Even if we can give every business that needs help $1,000, maybe that will pay a bill. I know it’s not going to get them from under their debt but it’s something,” Dunn said.
Dunn said small businesses in the community give Chestermere character.
“I know this community is generous so I would ask them to donate that 20 bucks. This isn’t about the businesses that have already closed as sad as that is, it’s about trying to keep more from closing,” Dunn said.
As for Wong, she’s determined to get through this bleak time. She said knowing the community has her back goes a a long way.
“I think it’s amazing that they are supporting many businesses. The ultimate goal is to help everyone prevent more businesses from closing,” Wong said.
The deadline for donations is June 25, with funds expected to be disbursed by June 30.
The most recent restrictions were put in place on May 5 for at least three weeks and will remain in place until it is safe to begin easing measures province wide according to Alberta Health.
“As the premier stated last week, the government is developing a path forward to begin easing restrictions and is expected to announce more details soon,” spokesperson Tom McMillan in a statement on Monday.
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