ASHLAND — Ashland’s Chamber of Commerce have honored teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week by gifting all teachers from eight local schools a $20 Shop Local Ashland gift card.

The celebration comes shorty after the Chamber commenced their new Shop Local Ashland program on May 1.

Teachers from Ashland City Schools, Hillsdale Local Schools, Mapleton Local Schools, Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center, Ashland Christian School, Genesis Christian Academy, Dale Roy School and St. Edward School all received the unique digital gift cards that are designed to benefit a myriad of local businesses.

Ashland City Schools typically picks one teacher each year to honor as “Teacher of the Year.” Due to the previous year that teachers everywhere have endured, AHS struggled to pick just one teacher to celebrate.

Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce Director of Operations Amy Daubenspeck was approached to help with Teacher Appreciation Week, which took place last week from May 3 to 7. The Chamber decided to distribute nearly 500 Shop Local Ashland gift cards to every teacher in all of their member schools as a way to thank them for the strenuous school year.

“We hit the ground with that and put out requests to some of our very generous member businesses,” Daubenspeck said. “They all just kind of stepped up; we got very few no’s.

“It was just amazing the different businesses and members that saw the value in appreciating the teachers and the adjustments they have had to make.”

Chamber ambassadors began soliciting the idea to local businesses and current Chamber members.

Because of the charitable reactions from local businesses, the Chamber of Commerce was able to fundraise nearly $10,000 for local teachers. The Chamber has been working on this initiative since February.

Entities that elected to sponsor the Teacher Appreciation contribution included Bill Harris Dealerships & the Chevy Network, BCU Electric, Inc.Mc.B Paving and SealcoatingCenterra Co-opAtlas Bolt & Screw, Coburn Carton Solutions, Park National BankWayne Savings Community BankArmstrong Cable, Dennis and Kolleen Miller, Simonson Construction Services, Inc.Spreng-Smith Agency, Sutton Bank, Ashland Comfort ControlAshland Main Street, the United Way of Ashland County OhioShakley Mechanical Inc, the Rotary Club of AshlandExplore Ashland Ohio and LSS The Good Shepherd.

By awarding area teachers with these gift cards, the participating local businesses in the Chamber’s new Shop Local Ashland program will subsequently be supported.

“We want these dollars to be spent locally,” Daubenspeck said. “It’s a win-win all the way around.”

If an Ashland teacher has yet to receive a gift card, they have until Friday, May 14 to either virtually claim them or physically pick up the certificate at the Chamber of Commerce.

The Shop Local Ashland program is a recent development and replaces the previous Chamber Cash program. As of now, there are 46 participating locations in Ashland where these new gift cards can be utilized.

“The (Chamber Cash) certificates were great, but people would set them somewhere or slide them into the trash with the bills they have already paid,” said Director of Membership and Marketing Emily McKinley. “So, we thought a digital gift card would be the way to go.

“I have been saying this for some time: ‘How cool would it be to have a gift card that could be used at tons of Ashland businesses?’ ”

The Chamber of Commerce anticipates this program to be more user-friendly than the Chamber Cash venture.

Any vendors interested in joining the growing list of businesses where these gift cards can be spent only require the ability to enter the gift card’s code during the checkout process to accept the form of payment. They also must be a current member of the Chamber.

“We have had a few nonmembers join the Chamber just to be a part of this gift card program,” McKinley said. “Ashland Balloon Rides and Splat Hair Design and Massage have both joined the Chamber just to be involved in this, which is awesome.

“We are hoping that people remember it for birthdays, holidays, employee appreciation (etc.). Our next step is to promote the program so that Ashlanders and beyond know that it exists. We’re really excited; it has been a lot of work.”

Community members can purchase Shop Local Ashland gift cards at the Chamber of Commerce’s website. These gift cards give the vendors 100% of the purchase and never expire.

For a complete list of businesses and organizations participating in the Shop Local Ashland gift card program, view the PDF below.