Back in January three local companies got together to ask themselves how they could help other small businesses who were struggling due to COVID-19. Soon after, the Be A Neighbor Fund was born. Since launching February 1st the Fund has raised over $27,000 and given financial awards to five local businesses. The fifth and final business, Irwin’s Fine Food, was announced Thursday and will receive $1,000 a month over three months for $3,000 total. Located at 240 Genesee Street in Utica, Irwin’s Fine Food is open weekdays for lunches but known for their cookies and catering.

The Be A Neighbor Fund is a joint project from Universal Bookkeeper, Made In Utica and McGrogan Design under not-for-profit Handshake.City. The Fund raised money through community donations and corporate contributions to distribute awards to locally-owned businesses who have had revenue compromised by pandemic restrictions.  The Fund received 37 applications and 80 nominations. Recipients were chosen based on factors such as financial need, longevity, community involvement and public nominations.

Irwin’s Fine Food has seen costs increase vastly in the past year. The restaurant experienced a tremendous drop in revenue due to reduced capacity, remote workers and catering that has all but stopped due to restrictions on numbers allowed at events.  This alone has been an approximate decline in revenue of $21,000. On Thursday, Be A Neighbor Fund partners surprised Irwin’s Fine Food owner Linda Irwin with the grant. Irwin looks forward to the future, saying “I love being in Downtown Utica and feel that it’s worth sticking it out. I see good things happening in Utica and I really would like to continue to be a part of it.”

The Be A Neighbor Fund Award for Irwin’s Fine Food was sponsored by First Source Federal Credit Union. For First Source President and CEO Tom Neumann, providing this funding was an easy decision.  “They are a staple in Utica, being in business for over 20 years! Known for their cookies, and family atmosphere, it would be unfortunate to lose a business like this. We really wanted to help and are so glad we are able to provide this grant,” Neumann said.

Irwin’s Fine Foods joins previous Be A Neighbor Fund recipients Cafe Domenico, Mello’s Subs, Bodywise Pure Pilates and Simmer Jamacian Restaurant.

Be A Neighbor Fund is supported by AmeriCU Credit Union and other partners. For more details or to make a donation, visit

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