Local hero gives away the equivalent of $18,000 to help businesses bounce back from lockdown.

Jamie Schwass opened his chiropractic clinic barely 18 months ago yet, in recent weeks, has given away almost $20,000 to help people and businesses bounce back from the Covid-19 lockdown.

Every day for a month from the first day of Level 3, he walked the streets of suburban Christchurch – leaving up to $250 cash at a time at restaurants and cafes to shout customers a coffee or two.

Schwass says the coffee contribution - which came to around $7000, enough for well over 1500 free coffees - was so much fun he intends to keep it up: "Hopefully we'll keep doing it forever, certainly as long as I'm in business."

Jamie Schwass. Photo / Supplied
Jamie Schwass. Photo / Supplied

Yet this was not the extent of his giving, not by a long way. He and wife Nishi Joseph, also a chiropractor, 'gave away' another $11,000 in free consultations at their Christchurch city clinic to help people get their health back on track in the wake of the lockdown.

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"We have a large practice in the city (one of two clinics the couple runs) and we thought 'why not give everything away for a month'," he says. "We would have seen about 80 clients during that time."

Schwass also busied himself with even more charitable work by organising two one-off events. The first was a community birthday party for kids who missed out on them during lockdown, attracting almost 50 families. Meanwhile a "sell and revival" market day he arranged to help struggling businesses saw around 1300 locals turn up.

His generosity has been recognised by the ASB who have named him an ASB Good as Gold recipient. The bank is giving him $5000 to keep up his community giving and $5000 of personal spending money.

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"After lockdown, being able to go out and buy a coffee was a real luxury and we loved the idea that Jamie had used his own money to generate custom for other businesses in his area by 'shouting' coffees for more than 1000 people," says ASB South Island regional manager Martin Gay. "This is an amazing community gesture and we're happy to be able to help Jamie continue it."

Schwass says his decision to hold the coffee "shout" came about because he wanted to help local businesses get back on their feet following the Level 4 lockdown: "We were lucky our business was in a good position. We can spend but we can't make others do so and we thought we would do it this way because if they (businesses) are not there, then neither will we be."

Schwass and his staff (he and Nishi employ two people) arranged for coffee tabs (like bar tabs) every day for 30 days at cafes, restaurants and other businesses like gift shops to help attract customers and stimulate the local economy: "We said 'the coffee is on us' as long as people who got one also bought something else like a muffin.

Photo /Supplied
Photo /Supplied

"It was a lot of fun, especially in getting to know local business owners," he says.
The team left tabs at close to 30 local businesses, most of which were near the second of his two Eden Health Centre clinics in Lincoln, a suburb about 20km out of the Christchurch CBD.

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Schwass received two nominations for the Good as Gold award. The first was from Christchurch woman Lauren Kilkelly who, although she does not know Schwass, learnt about his deeds through his Facebook page.

The second nomination came from one of his employees Brianna Roxborogh who says "I don't think you'll find someone giving more to their community than my boss.

"He is constantly looking after the community and getting out to support the wider area as best he can. We all know this lockdown has been very difficult and has put a lot of small businesses under stress and I really hope he can get some recognition for all the help he is giving."

She says the kids' party was deliberately held outside a local pantry so it would get business off the event, while Schwass left one of his coffee tabs at an Indian restaurant coping with nearby roadworks keeping customers away.

Schwass grew up in Christchurch but studied at Otago University and worked in Auckland for a year before returning to his home city to launch his business in January 2019.
He says the $5000 given by the ASB will go back into helping the same businesses he has been working with and, hopefully, a few new ones as well.

Schwass intends to put the other $5000 towards repairs needed on his vehicle and to cover some of the costs of moving house which he and Nishi are soon to do.