Ayla Pizzo calls it a “godsend,” a community-supported program to help local businesses survive the most difficult period in anyone’s lifetime.

Pizzo’s bead, jewelry, and gift boutique, “Ayla’s Originals,” is among the 150 stores being helped by “Adopt-a-Shop,” a program in which local residents pledge to buy something each week from a store they “adopt.”

“Adopt-a-Shop” is an outgrowth of another project, “Support Evanston Shops, Salons, and Studios,” a Facebook site developed by Ande Breunig, who loves this town so much she calls herself an “Evanston ambassador.”

Breunig, with two decades of retail marketing and training experience, says “I can’t call myself an Evanston ambassador if I’m not protecting my own backyard.”

So with the coronavirus pandemic dragging on, and many shops facing extinction, Bruenig went to the social media site in June to publicize Evanston stores and urge people to help keep those businesses in business.

Now 3,100 members later, “Support Evanston Shops, Salons, and Studios” is growing daily, with posts about what items are available where, or what is somebody’s favorite place. “People are coming together for a cause,” Breunig says.

“Adopt-a-Shop” was added last month, as a way of drumming up support for holiday business. Of course, the pledge to buy is not enforceable. But at Ayla’s Originals, Pizzo says she’s seen “a lot of people who have never been here before,” so she says it must be working.

Bruenig plans to continue both the “Support” and “Adopt” programs past the holidays, with different ideas in 2021 on how to help local businesses.

Pizzo says that’s great. To her, Ande Breunig and the folks backing her programs have been “a warm hug from the community.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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