TIMMINS -- With many small businesses forced to cease operations during the second lockdown, some members of the Timmins community decided it was time to help.

William Orr, a small business owner himself, has started a weekly auction through a Facebook page, with the proceeds going to a different business each week.

"These people own homes, they also own businesses downtown," Orr said. "Their property taxes don't stop, their financial obligations for their families don't stop."

Originally inspired to help one martial arts studio, Orr said other people joined the effort and he decided to expand it to help multiple businesses.

With the first weekly auction starting Feb. 3 through Feb. 9, donated items like an $800 greenhouse are up for bid.

Co-organizer Normand Dwyer said for local businesses to survive, people can't rely on government programs that may not fully cover the financial hardships brought on by the pandemic.

"Unless you want to lose these stores, you need to do something as a community to keep them open," Dwyer said. "At this very moment, it's most important to shop local ... it can't just be internet-based shopping."

Timmins Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy is the first featured business for the initiative.

Appreciates the support

Owner Kris Ratte said he was stunned when the group reached out, saying it's humbling that people in the community are supporting establishments like his through this crisis.

"It's unbelievable," Ratte said. "Throughout the first wave and even the second wave, we've had many loyal students and family members that continue paying their tuition, just to keep us afloat until we can get out of this."

"Every little bit is extra and is amazing to keep us going."

At the moment, Orr said the group collected enough donated items from individuals as businesses to support three or four weekly auctions.

People can also donate to featured businesses directly each week, he said.

While hurting businesses haven't reached out to the group directly, Dwyer said many are in need of financial help — and that people are joining the Facebook page daily offering to pitch in.

"We have gyms that aren't open, hairstylists that aren't open, so we're just going to keep plugging along at this week by week," Dwyer said.

"Trying to help them out whatever small amount we can, to see if we can keep them open at the end of this pandemic."