When Warwick Rotary recently named Frank Truatt, owner of WTBQ, as its Citizen of the Year, it also announced the recipients of this year’s Outstanding Community Service Awards.
They included Warwick Dispatch Editor Jennifer O’Connor and Warwick Relief Market founders Carmela Borrazas and Nicole McCormick, who had recruited more than 6,000 members to their Facebook-based group and raised more than $400,000 to assist Warwick’s small businesses during the pandemic restrictions.
The way their plan worked was to have businesses put into a schedule on the Facebook group daily. They would then put up a post on the time slot that they were given. And, in the post, the business would offer, for example, a gift certificate for $100, divided into ten $10 spots which are bought by whoever requests them first on the Facebook feed. Once all the spots are sold, the business owner does a live drawing on the Facebook group and a winner gets picked.
‘A very dark time’
Early this year, when the businesses were not able to open, some of them were selling up to $3,500 worth of gift certificates or product every week. This went on for a couple months until they were able to open again.
“Have you ever heard the expression, too good to be true,” said Tim Mullally, co-owner of Warwick’s longtime fashion shop, Style Counsel. “At first when I became aware of the Warwick Relief Market that is exactly what I thought. Then a dear friend reached out to me with Carmela on speaker phone and prompted me to give it some more consideration and I jumped right in.
“The Warwick Relief Market to me was like someone throwing a drowning man a life preserver,” Mullally added. When the governor shut down my businesses in March, I was in a desperate situation. How was I going to pay my bills? My mortgage? Put food on the table? It was a very dark time for me.
“The Warwick Relief Market kept me afloat,” he said. “Carmela would often reach out to me just to see how I was doing. She really cares about this community and I couldn’t be happier she and Nicole have received the Outstanding Community Service Award. “
‘Something beautiful happened’
Borrazas explained that her background in business and marketing throughout the years has helped many of her friends develop their ventures and make lots of money.
“For a while, I was looking into a business model to help veterans’ and first responders’ nonprofits,” she said, “so, when we decided to help our local businesses, it was a no-brainer that we needed to use that model and, then, something beautiful happened, the whole community of Warwick joined and saved the local businesses.”
‘Neighbor helping neighbor’
“The Relief Market and the effort of these two women epitomizes the spirit of our community, neighbor helping neighbor,” Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton said. “It is through this effort that many of our small businesses will be able to survive the drastic shutdown caused by this pandemic. Congratulations to them both.”
Added Mayor Michael Newhard: “During this difficult time and especially the initial months when businesses were forced to close their doors, we have relied on creative solutions to give us hope. Nicole McCormick and Carmela Borrazas developed the Warwick Relief Market which became a bridge between our local businesses and the public. It was an incredible success and lifeline for many of our beloved stores. The strength of our community is shown through its response to adversity. Nicole and Carmela are very much a part of that response and truly deserve the recognition of Outstanding Community Service.”