As a longtime Prosper resident and current Town Council member, Marcus Ray has seen the community rally many times to support myriad local causes.
Now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he believes it is once again time to do exactly that.
Inspired by community-minded initiatives in other Texas cities, earlier this month Ray established and went live with the website local75078.org.
The site, named as a nod to the town’s zip code, features links to Prosper-affiliated nonprofit organizations, physical and mental healthcare providers and “faith resources” that are open and available to assist those in need.
“In these times, a community really can come together, and I think even places like Prosper and North Texas, where people think we’re immune to impact because of the growth and the affluency that has historically been here, there’s a lot of people” who are struggling, Ray said, not only financially but also emotionally and in other ways.
Ray started the site, which is not directly affiliated with or in any way sponsored by the town of Prosper, separate from his role on the Prosper Town Council.
Although he’s “encouraged by the creative human spirit during this unique season,” Ray said he is particularly concerned about local business owners and the state of people’s mental health following weeks of social distancing as well as working and isolating at home.
“We are designed for community and intended to be social … in ways that social media apps are unable to provide,” he said. “I’m concerned about suicides increasing because people are just on the edge because of stresses in life. Their work has changed, or maybe they’ve lost their job and they’ve got concerns and can’t pay their bills.
“People start to go sometimes to a dark place, and I really want to make sure we have the right resources out there for people to talk and connect with somebody. It’s just super important.”
Even after social-distancing and business restrictions begin to relax, “If we go back to work and everything gets back to business as usual, we still have a three- to six-month period where people are still gonna have some needs.”
Helping area businesses and nonprofit organizations thrive are also among the reasons behind the creation of local75078.org.
“Prosper pride and community support are unmatched,” Ray said. “Promoting local businesses and the nonprofits who help locally through a consolidated source were the primary goals in creating the site.”
Also featured are links to federal loan and other assistance programs as well as information that may prove helpful to area business owners.
As it continues to expand, Ray said he plans to add “local content and resources for Prosper businesses” - from restaurants and insurance agents to plumbers – and so that residents in need of goods and services can easily find those and spend their dollars here rather than outside of town.
The idea is to help Prosper-based nonprofits and small businesses keep their doors open and continuing to serve residents. Ultimately, this may also help them successfully ride out future economic challenges that could result in the pandemic’s wake.
Because people are also eager to help others during this time, the site includes links to donate directly to area nonprofits including Cornerstone NCT, the Neighbors Nourishing Neighbors food pantry, Grace Bridge, Love Pacs Prosper and the Prosper Ladies Association.
Ray also partnered with a family owned Prosper printing-and-pottery business, Southern Ink & Clay, to design and sell on the website T-shirts and yards signs emblazoned with Prosper-positive slogans that are intended to boost community pride.
“Prosper Local” T-shirts cost $25 and “We Are Prosper Strong” signs are $20.
Dollars from each sale will be donated to a local nonprofit organization that individuals select themselves during the purchase process, Ray explained.
Before they were approached by Ray, Southern Ink & Clay owners Kristen and Tom Gilbert had designed and were printing and selling their own Prosper-positive shirts (which are still available at prosperprintshop.com/southern_ink_clothing_co/shop/home) as a way to help the community.
The couple, who reside in Prosper with their five children, donate $5 from the sale of each of their shirts to struggling area businesses – many of whom are clients of their shop, which opened last November.
Teaming up with local70578.org to help give back “was something that we had an outlet to do,” Kristen Gilbert said, adding that it has been difficult watching other area businesses shutdown their operations during the pandemic. “We don’t want anybody to go under.”