November 24, 2020

Amy Vergillo, Communications Manager
Sustainable Connections

Spend, Gift, and Support Whatcom County Local Businesses During COVID-19

 A collection of Whatcom County economic development agencies is proud to announce two new tools to help Whatcom County residents support local businesses: Whatcom Think Local First Gift Card and the Local Gift Guide.

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New Virtual Gift Card Connects Purchasers to an Array of Local Businesses

The Whatcom Think Local First Gift Card is a community-based digital gift card that makes it fun and easy to keep locals spending locally. It can be purchased at and used at any participating local merchant throughout Whatcom County.

Purchasers can write a personal message to send along with the card to family, friends, and colleagues via email, text, or physical copy. Recipients can choose to spend it at one of 100+ participating merchants in Whatcom County - or mix it up and spend flexibly at multiple locations. 

Virtual Card Works Online or In-Person, Locally

All digital and always available on your phone, the Whatcom Think Local First Gift Card is great for holidays, employee thank yous, teacher or coach appreciation gifts, or just to show your appreciation to a friend. Especially important during the pandemic is the ability to order locally online for takeout, delivery, and curbside pickup at restaurants and retailers, which is a perfect way to use this card. 

Act Fast for Bonus Match Offer

While supplies last, bonus gift cards will be given to those who purchase gift cards. For every $25 spent in gift cards, an additional $10 bonus gift card is awarded; for every $50 spent, $20 is awarded; and for every $100 spent, $40 is awarded.

The bonus gift cards have an expiration date of December 31, 2020, to ensure that the money benefits our local businesses as quickly as possible. For more information or to participate as a merchant in the program, visit 

One-Stop Guide Allows Local Gift Research Across 430 Local Merchants

The Local Gift Guide takes the guesswork out of choosing gifts this holiday season. With a directory of over 430 locally owned businesses in Whatcom County, shoppers are sure to find a local business near them to support.

Gift suggestions are listed by category, price, and location to offer a variety of gifts for everyone. Available digitally at and in print from any WECU location, gift-givers can find plenty of local businesses offering online shopping, local delivery, outdoor dining, and takeout options. 

Why supporting local businesses is so important during COVID-19 

Shopping at local businesses means supporting the heart of what makes Whatcom County unique. The purchase of a Whatcom Think Local First Gift Card creates a pool of cash that local businesses in Whatcom County can rely on during the pandemic.

Studies have shown that local independent retailers recirculate 47% of their revenue back into the community, while only 14% of national chains’ revenue stays in the community. More dramatically, restaurants, which have been hit especially hard during the pandemic, recirculate 73% of their revenue back into the community, versus only 30% for national chains.  

By supporting local businesses, more money continues circulating through the local community—this is achieved through a combination of profits paid to local business owners, wages paid to local workers, goods and services procured locally for internal use or resale, and charitable giving within the community. People looking for a way to do some good or who want to know how to help the community they love, especially during COVID-19, can still find local online stores in the Local Gift Guide, and purchase Whatcom Think Local First Gift Cards for others or themselves.  

Whatcom Think Local First Gift Card and Local Gift Guide are supported through a collaboration between Whatcom County Chambers of Commerce (Bellingham Regional, Birch Bay, Blaine, Ferndale, Lynden, Mt. Baker Foothills), Sustainable Connections, Downtown Bellingham Partnership, Historic Fairhaven Association, Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism, the Regional Economic Partnership (REP) at the Port of Bellingham, employers, and merchants.  

About the Whatcom Think Local First campaign

When COVID-19 began devastating local small businesses, a collection of local nonprofit economic development agencies along with the Regional Economic Partnership (REP) at the Port of Bellingham and the Whatcom County Health Department began to discuss how to infuse cash into the economy to support Whatcom County small businesses.

One of the ideas that emerged was an expanded Whatcom Think Local First campaign, which capitalizes on a long-standing program created and supported for 18 years by Sustainable Connections.

The lead sponsors of Sustainable Connections’ Think Local First program include WECU; City of Bellingham; and Village Books and Paper Dreams. Additional sponsors include Cascadia Weekly; Copysource; Lithtex NW; Mt Baker Care Center & Summit Place Assisted Living; Samuel’s Furniture; and Fairhaven Runners & Walkers. The group hopes to access additional COVID-19 CARES Act funding to support the concept.  

About the Whatcom Think Local Gift Card Technology Partner, Yiftee

Yiftee is an award-winning, no-hassle eGift card and promotions solution for local businesses and communities. With no special technology or POS integration, no revenue-share and no special accounting, it's easy for merchants to offer eGift Cards on their website and Facebook pages.

Merchants gain additional sales, foot traffic, and an eGifting capability like big retailers. Consumers, corporations, and merchants use the Yiftee mobile and online website to send thoughtful, unexpected gifts via email, text or print. Recipients pick up their Yiftee gifts using their smartphone at their favorite local restaurants and shops, driving profitable business to those merchants.

For more info see or email 

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
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