SANFORD, Fla. – For a Sanford small business owner, keeping up with his catering business has been quite a struggle not only because of the coronavirus pandemic but in May, he lost his wife in a car crash, leaving him to care for their two little girls.
Fortunately, thanks to the help from his Sanford community, the holiday season will be a little less stressful than Aaron Butler initially thought.
Butler, the chef and owner of Creations Catering and Events, couldn’t hold back the tears as he opened an envelope with checks inside from the Sanford Relief Fund, a program launched earlier this year to help keep the dreams alive of small business owners struggling due to the pandemic.
Jeff Small, the president and owner of Advanced Composite Structures whose company founded the fund, said the fund has helped many businesses but that money will eventually run out without the community’s help.
“We’ve been able to help 10 businesses but we are running out of funds,” Small said.
Natasha Trythall, who works in human resources for Advanced Composite Structures, explained the need for the community to pitch in to keep the fund going.
“It is a community-based fund, so the only way that we can continue to help out is by the community coming together and stepping up, adding funds to what we have now,” Trythall said. Butler became the latest recipient to benefit from the fund and the financial relief comes at a time when not only is he trying to keep up with his catering business but a few months ago, he became a single father to his 9- and 2-year-old daughters.
“It was a good idea to help Aaron out with his family and with the tragic loss that he had,” Small said.
Butler said his wife, Amanda, was not only his best friend and spouse of 10 years, she was also the one who kept things running smoothly at work and at home.
“She did the books, handled the kids, everything,” he said while wiping away tears. “It’s tough, you know. Some days it’s a little easier because you just get in the groove of things but you know, like this morning, ‘Where’s mommy? Where’s mommy?’ Those kind of things hit you.”
On May 21, Amanda left home with her two little girls for a day at the beach but just a few miles after leaving, her vehicle was involved in a crash with a motorcyclist near the intersections of Celery Avenue and Highway 415 in Sanford.
“Just cruising over 415 and I still don’t really exactly know how it happened but there was a collision with a motorcycle and flipped the car. The kids survived, which is a miracle,” Butler said.
Now that Butler and his girls are adjusting to a new life, he’s thankful for having his Sanford community.
“The support of my neighbors, you know, they offer to watch the kids when I have to work,” Butler said. “My employees set up a [GoFundMe] page for me. I had no idea. Thank God they did because I don’t know what I would’ve done without that. It’s been tremendous. I don’t know what I would do without them.”
In addition to the $5,000 check in the envelope, the Sanford Relief Fund also gave Butler an additional $2,000 so he can make sure his girls have the merriest Christmas possible.