Hope, or fear. Confidence in the inherent goodness of our fellow humans, or mistrust and an overriding concern for our own security. These opposing forces, which tug at us daily, have a profound effect on our lives and our society.

Support small business ownersIn 2020, as we are inundated with a global pandemic, the rapid loss of work for tens of millions of our fellow Americans, and continued racial injustice coming to the fore, it may seem that the choice between hope and fear has been made for us. This year, with our national anxiety overwhelming us, it may seem that fear, and those who profit from stoking fear, have already won.

We reject the notion that fear has won. Indeed, even at the darkest hour over these past six months, we have seen firsthand that hope continues to shine—you just have to know where to look.

Three months ago, we took the first steps to form the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund, an all-volunteer effort dedicated to providing $3,000 forgivable loans to struggling small businesses throughout Pennsylvania. On May 6, the Fund opened its website and a small group of dedicated volunteers began reviewing applications from small businesses across the Commonwealth. Two days later, we funded the first 12 small businesses.

Now 73 days later, we have funded 464 small businesses in 43 counties across Pennsylvania.

We meet daily to review and fund more businesses, with a goal of helping 1,000 small businesses survive this challenging time. Our small group of volunteers has expanded to over 70 people, working every day to raise funds, review applications, make funding decisions, call small business owners with good news, and quickly process the payments that are helping these businesses survive.

For each of our volunteers, this work has been a labor of love and empathy, and a daily affirmation of fellowship and (yes) hope.

We witness the hope of our small business owners, when by video they share their business, their employees, their resilience and creativity in response to the current crisis, and the dedication they have to their community.

We witness hope when our volunteers have the privilege to speak with the remarkable women and men who own these businesses. Each tells us that the $3,000 forgivable loan provides both a financial lifeline and a vote of confidence in their ability to navigate these unprecedented times.

And we witness hope with each donation to the Fund.

We make our donors a simple promise: 100 percent of our funding goes to help small businesses. Almost all of the donations powering the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund have been from individuals. Their gifts have ranged from $3 to $1 million. Some families have donated their entire stimulus check of $2,400 to help struggling small businesses.

On June 4, in the aftermath of looting that damaged many minority-owned small businesses, a Philadelphia police officer donated $1,000, with the message, “I pray these businesses will be able to recover to help the residents of Pennsylvania. God Bless You.”

A few days later, Ira Lubert and Pam Estadt made an enormous investment in hope: They are matching every new donation to the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund up to $1 million. We are working every day to meet their inspiring challenge.

Reflecting on these past few months, we are convinced that the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund’s growth and immediate impact reflects a shared rejection of fear and an embrace of hope.

Our board members, volunteers, and donors comprise different races, nationalities, religions and political philosophies and yet, here we are united by a simple mission: to help save the small businesses that enrich and, in many ways, define our community.

After watching a thousand videos submitted by small business owners, it is clear to us that a path forward for our city, our region, our Commonwealth, and indeed, our nation, is to harness and channel the hope, energy, resilience and indomitable spirit of these women and men and their employees.

These small business owners rejected doubt and fear when they took the risk to start their business. Now, at a time when politicians, talking heads and social media gadflies foment fear and attempt to divide us on a daily basis, these businesses have doubled-down on hope.

Instead of giving in to the fear cultivated by some, we should honor and emulate these women and men in our community. Instead of withdrawing, we should reach out and ask how we can help. Because we can help.

The story of each small business—whether it is making PPE or hand sanitizer; organizing free dinners or throwing a graduation celebration to lift spirits—demonstrates that we can do more than we fear. So dare to reach out, to get involved, to donate.

Join us, and let these sparks of hope drive out the darkness of fear until we are all left standing in the light, together.