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Apple Tree Therapy

Friday, March 13, 2020 is a day Stacy Bragg won’t soon forget. On that day, Stacy’s husband began to run a fever. It’s also when she learned that Illinois would be closing its schools due to the new coronavirus, which would impact the two pediatric occupational therapy businesses she operates in southwestern Illinois.

Stacy’s husband began to display symptoms of COVID-19, forcing him to self-isolate in their St. Louis home for the next three weeks. Meanwhile, an Illinois shelter-in-place order took effect, bringing the businesses she had built over the past 17 years to a grinding halt.

One of those businesses – Apple Tree Therapy Services – is a pediatric occupational therapy clinic in O’Fallon, Illinois, who typically treats 75 to 100 children each week.

“It was super petrifying,” Stacy recalls. “You run a business for years. Your employees trust you, and suddenly you have nothing to give them.” Stacy reluctantly advised her employees that she would have to lay them off and encouraged them to apply for unemployment.

About this same time, she learned about the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that would be administered by the Small Business Administration as part of the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. “I was having a hard time finding good information on the application process – until I reached out to Commerce Bank,” she said.

Stacy has been a Commerce customer since her days as an occupational therapy student at Washington University. She now looks to the bank for all her business and personal banking needs. “I worked directly with Commerce’s branch manager and small business specialist in Clayton,” she recalled. “They were the first to send me a checklist of the paperwork required for a PPP loan. They were the first to give me concrete answers on what the process would look like, and they were also the first to calm my fears.”

As the PPP application portal opened, Stacy received several emails from her Commerce banker. She spent the day preparing her application materials at her office and when she arrived home from her 22-mile commute, another email from Commerce awaited her.

“It was Saturday afternoon at 4:00 and my bank is contacting me to say they’d made a few minor changes to the application,” she recalls. “It was amazing. They had been working all weekend, and they were STILL working.”

A week later, Stacy received word that her PPP loan application had been approved. The next day, the funds were in her account.

All but one of her eight employees immediately went back on the payroll as Apple Tree Therapy pivoted to a tele-therapy approach. The eighth staffer remained furloughed to protect her health.

“I don’t know where my business would be without the PPP funds,” says Stacy, whose husband has since recovered. “I cannot praise Commerce enough for all they did for me. It didn’t matter to bankers whether my loan was large or small. They took great care of me when I needed it most.”

Commerce has been such a bright spot for me in this pandemic. Here my husband was languishing up on the third floor, my daughter was stuck studying at home and I’m trying to keep my businesses afloat. I felt alone. It really meant a lot to me that Commerce cared about MY small business.
– Stacy Bragg, Apple Tree Therapy Services