Businesses getting boost from Coast Chamber of Commerce grant program


Some local businesses are getting a much-needed boost thanks to grants given out by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce.

While the chamber’s fundraising capabilities have been limited, the assistance they’re providing South Mississippi businesses is still going strong when help is needed most.

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The Yard Milkshake Bar survived the Shark Tank, but less than one year after local entrepreneurs Lynn Hammons and Shelley Creel opened the chain’s first new franchise location in D’Iberville, COVID struck. Hammons said, “This is a shark in itself. It certainly has its challenges. We had to shut down sometime in April.  We actually shut down because our expenses were greater than the income. We opened back up in May. We’ve gotten a lot of support from the community. We’re at about 50-percent dining capacity now. We’re getting a lot of support. The Chamber has been helpful. We’re doing everything we can to keep our doors open and keep our heads above water and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce has provided a grant to keep us open and we appreciate that.”

This is just one of about 40 local businesses that got a boost and received a grant from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Grant program. Money is awarded each year to qualifying businesses in our area with 25 employees or less. Rachael Kiesling with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce said, “We started this program post-Katrina because obviously, everybody was in need, and there was an opportunity for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce to step in and provide assistance. Through the years we continued it. We feel like we could help businesses with expenses such as marketing, equipment, beautification, and it’s been a very successful program. Of course, in a post-COVID world, those opportunities change, and what businesses need is cash, and they need money in their businesses and if the Chamber can provide an injection of cash to help with some of those additional expenses or funds lost, we’re here to do that.”

It’s been a life-line for local business owners like Lynn Hammons who, as a life-long Saints fan, knows how to hang in there, take the hits, and still believe. “We’re going to get through this somehow, someway. We might as well do it together!”

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Toni started at WXXV News 25 in December of 2013, just three months after the news was launched. She has served as Assignment Editor, anchored for nearly two years, worked as a reporter for several years and hosted Coastal Connections for more than four years. Toni graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Southern Mississippi where she was editor of the Student Printz. She then did an internship on Capitol Hill, working for a U.S. Senator, then returned to Mississippi as a reporter at WDAM in Hattiesburg. After that, she moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, working as a reporter for FOX 25 in Biloxi, then crossing city lines to work at WLOX-TV news in Biloxi, starting out as a producer, then working as a photographer, reporter, weekend assignment editor and weekend anchor. She was among the station team that won the Edward Murrow and Peabody awards for coverage during Hurricane Katrina. Toni moved to the Lone Star State where she worked as the morning and noon anchor, investigative reporter and live shot reporter for KZTV Action 10 News, then KRIS TV News in Corpus Christi, Texas. Toni moved back to the Magnolia State to be with and take care of her family, working as a multi-media journalist and fill-in anchor at WDBD Fox 40 news in Jackson. After almost completing a second degree in filmmaking at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, Toni transitioned back to news at News 25. Toni is blessed to have a wonderful support network of close family, friends and mentors, and she hopes to pay it forward. She has a three-legged chiweenie named Rocky Balboa because of his fighting spirit. She loves writing and has completed a novel that has been adapted into a screenplay, and has just finished another screenplay called "Delta Rose." She's currently working on a new legal thriller called "Fall From Grace." Stay tuned....