Dear readers of The Free Press. As the owner and founder, I wanted to reach out.

First, I wanted to let you know how the coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting our workers and our papers.

Second, I want you to understand how we see our job and ask for your support and ideas so we can be a team. There is not much I am certain of in our world right now, but the one thing I know is we need to stay together in this battle. Physical separation is one thing; emotionally, we need to come together like never before in our lifetime, as generations before us came together after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Third, I want to give assurance that we will be here to do our part, not only in ending this pandemic, but working with our business community to put things back together after COVID-19 is under control. We will work with our government and state in whatever capacity needed. We’re all Mainers, and though we weren’t all born here, we have all inherited the Maine trait of perseverance that will guide us as we rebuild our economy.

Let’s start with how we see our job. Mainstream media is here to sort out what is happening and to vet the information to present to you, with as little bias as humanly possible. Unlike social media, what you’ll read in here is not “off the cuff,” but goes through a process that is meant to codify the story in a way you can trust. We are the watchdog, and for that reason, we have detractors who want to discredit us and demonize what we do. Reporters have an oath to give you balanced accounts of the information they collect. Columnists are here to provide you with conversation starters; nothing moves forward without civilized discussion.

In addition to asking everyone to pitch in and help the still-open restaurants and retailers that allow us to put out a newspaper every week, we’re asking our readers to consider investing directly in our staff with a “GoFundMe”- type campaign that will start this week, including one-time-donation and recurring-pledge options similar to a subscription.

We know there is lots of need right now, so please give to whom you can and those most in need. Most of all, take care of yourself and your family.

This is what I’m doing as the owner of this business and I share this to encourage others to do what they can, where they can. In the weeks to come, we will be forced to cut staff hours — cutting back on the number of pages in the paper and combining sections will save only so much. Cutting our costs will be essential for us to be able to outlast COVID-19.

We know the U.S. House, the Senate and our governor and state legislators are all trying to respond quickly to pump money into our economy by relaxing unemployment rules and sending out checks to workers with lost wages. I have been trying to wait to see where this comes down, but the time for waiting is over; we must act.

I have secured a loan that will bridge the gap for my business and my most important assets, our staff. Immediately we will be making no-interest loans to any staff member who sees a cut in take-home pay. For April and May the amount available to each staff member is 100 percent of the difference not covered by federal checks and state unemployment, and it will be available immediately. Payback is expected only when and if they return to their pre-COVID-19 status.

I couldn’t have done this during my first 10 years in business and no bank would have lent me money based on my signature during my first 20 years. Many restaurant and other small business owners are distraught because, outside of sharing the food or resources they have in their restaurants or shops, they don’t have the backup resources to do much else. The reason I share this is to encourage other business owners to get creative and do what they can, where they can, for their staff. I am hoping that state and federal relief packages will take care of workers first. But I hope they don’t leave business owners on the curbside, because they are the backbone of our economy, and they will be on the front lines bringing us back to life. Right now, many of them have no income and no backup, and they need to take care of themselves.

In summary: Do what you can, where you can, and take care of yourself. Remember the oxygen-in-the-plane mantra: You need to put your mask on so that you can help your child next to you. If you give them the mask, you become immobilized and unable to give assistance to others. If we stay smart, take care of each other, and work together, we will come out the other side.

Let me end with a note about the team of people working on our behalf for the people of Knox, Lincoln and Waldo counties to keep you informed about what is happening. Many of us have known why community newspapers, like the one you’re reading, are so much a part of the fabric of where we live, but this is our time to shine. Like teachers and social workers (noble professions in their own right), we aren’t in this for the money; we are in this because this is what we do, and times like this remind us of why we do it.