Chamber award

DeForest Windsor Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Heike Compe (right) is shown with local volunteer award winners.

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has been tough on local commerce.

In her role as executive director of the DeForest Windsor Area Chamber of Commerce, Heike Compe is doing what she can to help.

“I have to say, our local businesses have been amazing, adjusting with carry-outs, drive-throughs, and starting delivery services more than they had before,” said Compe.

Area restaurants and other retail businesses aren’t the only ones adapting to changing times. Compe also credited EVCO and Demco for doing their part to make personal protective equipment, or PPE. Demco is manufacturing face shields for medical workers.

For her part, Compe has been trying to keep businesses informed about all the governmental orders and relief programs out there, such as the payroll protection plan. Her office has been serving as a sort of clearinghouse for information from such organizations as the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

“I’ve just been trying to get a lot of the information pushed out to businesses,” said Compe.

That includes the latest on COVID-19 regulations and enforcement. At the same time, Compe is filling the chamber’s website with webinars from organizations like the WEDC with advice for dealing with these hard times.

The coronavirus outbreak has made one part of her job almost impossible.

“Any event planning is very difficult,” said Compe. “We could hold some of them later in the summer.”

For example, the Community Expo that usually takes place in April was moved to September. Still up in the air, according to Compe, is DeForest’s annual 4th of July celebration. Compe said a Community Freedom Celebration could be held later.

“We’re crossing our fingers that we can still hold events,” said Compe.

Compe’s been spending a lot of time on social media, getting COVID-19 information out through as many avenues as possible, such as Linked-In and Facebook. The chamber has even started an Instagram page.

“My daughters are teaching me,” said Compe, with a laugh. She explained that one of the chamber’s board members put together a Linked-In page for the chamber.

“I appreciate all the help,” said Compe.

She also is impressed by the creativity of local businesses. The Supporting Hands Poker Game is currently up and running. It is planned to go from May 1-29. Eight participating businesses are handing out a playing card with every receipt. At the end of every week, participants are asked to show their hands, and the winner gets $25 in Chamber Bucks to be spent at participating businesses.

Compe also talked about the Village of DeForest’s virtual bingo, which encourages residents to get out on local trails and do different activities to match with squares on the village’s website. To complete a square, participants have to take a picture of themselves or their families completing the tasks. Score sheets are submitted by a certain date and then winners are drawn for prizes.

Compe has marveled at the resiliency of the community and its ability to adjust to changes throughout the COVID-19 ordeal. An example she cited is the school district’s quick transition to virtual learning and the plans its making for graduation.

“It’s all about making the best of the situation,” said Compe.

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