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How the community stepped up to help this Forsyth County glamping business survive
Georgia Glamping, which operates out of Shady Grove Campground, just reopened for business after the campground was closed since March 23 amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo courtesy Georgia Glamping)

The future of Georgia Glamping in Forsyth County looked grim, so co-founder Rebeka Self decided to be honest with the young company’s followers on social media.

On April 18, Self wrote a post on the company’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. It should have been 30 days into the 2020 camping season for Georgia Glamping, she said. Instead, its sites at Shady Grove Campground had been open just two days before they were shut down March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The company, which offers luxury camping accommodations, was forced to refund or move $40,000 of reservations in March and April. Its four recently-hired employees were in limbo. And they were hired right after the cutoff date under the federal government’s Payroll Protection Program, so Georgia Glamping received no help from the virus disaster relief program.

Self didn’t mention those details, only that she worried Georgia Glamping was “helplessly watching two years’ worth of work, passion, dreams, blood, sweat and tears slowly get eroded away.”

“All this to say,” Self went on, “please please support your local, small businesses as much as you are able to during this time.”

View this post on Instagram

Today would have been our 30th day of our 2020 season. Instead, we have been open a total of 2 days before our campground was forced to close on March 23rd. • We try to keep things positive, encouraging and inspirational on here but we also want to be real with you guys - our amazing friends, family and followers who have supported us so well over these past couple years. • The reality is March and April have been really hard y’all. I think @wandernorthga said it best in their post a few days ago about what we small, family-owned businesses are feeling. • We cling to hope that we can survive this, but at the same time we are helplessly watching 2 years worth of work, passion, dreams, blood, sweat and tears slowly get eroded away by this craziness. • All this to say, please please support your local, small businesses as much as you are able to during this time. Check in on them, ask them if they are ok, find creative ways to help. • As for us, if you have ever wanted to stay with us in the future, if we have ever donated free nights to your non-profits or charities, or if you have ever wanted to give the gift of Glamping to a friend or family member, we are humbly asking that you please purchase a Georgia Glamping gift certificate or book a future stay at this time. Even if you can just share this post with others, it would be such a help to us. • Thank you to everyone who has offered to help, given advice, kind words and encouragement during this time, we appreciate you more than you will ever know. Keep holding on friends 💚 #letsgoglamping 📷:@ivyandlinenco

A post shared by Georgia Glamping Company (@georgiaglamping) on

Rebeka, along with her husband, Nathan, who also helps run Georgia Glamping, soon saw the power of a community to help one of its own. 

Over the next three days, Rebeka’s post was shared nearly 1,000 times on social media. 

In two days, almost $15,000 of reservations were booked.

“You want to talk about community support,” Nathan said. “That was support.”

Georgia Glamping’s experience is just one of many similar ones of varying scale across Forsyth County since the coronavirus pandemic altered life in so many ways, but especially for many small businesses forced to shutter or drastically modify operations under shelter-in-place orders and social distancing guidelines.

Restaurants have donated food to hospitals, law enforcement agencies and non-profit organizations. Places of worship have organized programs to serve at-risk populations. Residents have made personal protective equipment for front-line workers. Local businesses have donated sales back to other ones. 

From example after example, the Selfs say they have come away from the tumult of the past month more committed than ever to supporting the local community.

“We wouldn’t be able to survive without all of the community outpouring,” Nathan said. He added, “It changed the whole trajectory of 2020 for us. Period. I don’t know what would’ve happened.”

After the community’s response to that social media post, Georgia Glamping is now at 60% occupancy for its seven sites at Shady Grove Campground in May. Weekends through June are booked, too.

And the timing couldn’t have been better: the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners voted earlier this week to reopen the campground with certain restrictions.

Georgia Glamping has implemented several safety measures as business gets back underway. Its employees will wear full personal protective equipment when they clean the camp sites. The campground will use a contactless check-in system, and wash houses, playgrounds and group sites/pavilions will be closed.

It has the Selfs optimistic for the future and in a giving spirit. After the community stepped up to help Georgia Glamping, the company decided to respond in kind with a free weekend for a first responder. They have more giveaways planned in the near future, too.

“We really are grateful for the community and how they supported,” Nathan said, “and we wanted to give back.”

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