Courage, tenacity, and passion are words most of us hear describe sports stars. But over the last year, it’s western Oregon’s small businesses that truly deserve those accolades. They have gone through unexpected challenges that have meant extraordinary hard work at the least, and heartbreaking loss at the worst.

The individuals and families that own these businesses exemplify the best of what it means to survive, and in many cases thrive, in the face of unprecedented risk.

The beginning of 2021 saw the pandemic’s effects hit full-tilt, when a year’s loss of customers turned into a loss of sales, employees, products and supplies that sent most businesses scrambling to survive. Some couldn’t make it. But vaccines in 2021 gave us light at the end of the tunnel — a way back to daily life before COVID-19 —even as the delta and omicron variants cause havoc, especially among our most vulnerable.

Fortunately for all, small business dreamers are a tough bunch. They continue to discover ways to pivot, to gladly deliver what we want and need in different ways than before: curbside and home delivery, online consultations, outdoor seating, mobile repairs, supply and logistics options, and behind-the-scenes changes that are keeping their business open and dreams alive. And we can credit these companies with a return to a forgotten neighborliness; knowing that despite the nightly news, we can and do look out for one another and reconnect with civility, patience and kindness.

So I give you the auto sales and repair shops, the retirement community, the insurance agent, the bookstore, the grocery, the builder and so many more who have earned our attention and loyalty well past COVID-19. As you read through each issue of the Catholic Sentinel and see those who advertise, consider where you send your business. Drop by or call to express your gratitude and admiration that their hearts are in what they do, every day.