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    Friday, June 09, 2023

    Child's Play day care, Mel's Downtown Creamery among bank grant recipients

    Child's Play day care in Ledyard and Mel's Downtown Creamery in Pawcatuck are among the five Connecticut businesses that are each receiving a $15,000 no-strings-attached grant from Citizens Bank as part of the bank's Small Business Recovery program, Citizens announced last week.

    Child's Play owner Patty Testa said she will put part of the grant toward operational fees, because with nonessential workers staying home with their kids, she's seen a roughly 65% drop in business. But she also wants to give a bonus to staff members who have been working through the pandemic.

    Testa recognizes that her employees would get more money on unemployment, when combining state benefits with the $600-a-week federal benefit. She said those still working are better off in the long run because they know they have a job to return to, but she stills feels they're "kind of a little ripped off" and wants to give them a bonus to say they're appreciated.

    The day care now has about 21 kids, Testa said, whose parents are essential employees, such as those working at community health centers and hospitals, nursing homes, Electric Boat and HVAC companies.

    She said adjustments due to the coronavirus include taking temperatures, and having staff wear masks and sanitize throughout the day and evenings. Another difficulty is that Child's Play now has three third-graders, a second-grader and two kindergarteners who have different assignments for distance learning.

    Testa said the Payroll Protection Program ran out of money before she got her application in, so she applied for the Citizens Bank grant in the meantime. She still hasn't received PPP funding.

    "I had been looking for everything and anything that we could possibly qualify for and apply for," said Melanie Goggin of Mel's Downtown Creamery, "because I kept saying that if we were going to come out on the wrong side of this moment... it wasn't going to be from me not trying."

    Goggin said the $15,000 will help with payroll and to "catch up with those bills that we were starting to fall behind on, which I'm not proud to say, because I'm the type when the bill comes in, I want to pay it."

    Goggin — who has a 6-year-old and 3-year-old at home — said this is the time of year that Mel's usually hosts fundraisers every week, such as for parent-teacher organizations and sports teams. But they've been canceled or postponed.

    "It's part of who we are, so it's kind of heartbreaking," she said. "We're the ones that should be writing the checks to send them out, and other people are coming in to support us and make sure we're still there. It's kind of a flip."

    But Mel's did deliver an SUV full of food to the WARM Center last week.

    The ice cream shop is open for takeout and curbside pickup. Goggin said the transition during the pandemic has involved adding on DoorDash, which is a food order delivery service, and putting plexiglass in front of the registers.

    Between the plexiglass and everyone wearing masks, "We miss the smiles and the conversations and the memories and the moments," Goggin said.

    Citizens said it is awarding 134 direct grants to small businesses. Other Connecticut companies to each get a $15,000 grant are Express Your Pet, The Log Cabin restaurant and Wepco Plastics.


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