Brittany Harpole, owner of Pilates 512 in Round Rock, was sitting at home on a recent Friday night following her first week of online Pilates classes. Harpole, alongside many fitness studio owners in Round Rock, had been forced to temporarily close her studio on March 25 in the wake of COVID-19.

In her email inbox sat an unread message from the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation: Pilates 512 had been granted funding from Round Rock Cares.

“I just started crying,” Harpole said. “To get that bit of good news was just an amazing way to end the week.”

In an effort to help preserve local businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak, the city of Round Rock, the Round Rock Chamber, the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation and Dell Technologies launched Round Rock Cares onMarch 25. The fund aims to assist local businesses struggling with operational expenses—such as rent, payroll and utilities—and keep their doors open. Pilates 512 was one of more than 80 recipients of the fund.

As a member of the service industry, Harpole said one of the difficulties she has experienced is the lack of face-to-face contact with her clients. Working in the fitness industry and as a Pilates trainer, there are minor cues in a client’s behavior—shifts in the arms and legs, facial expressions and ease of motion—that help Harpole guide her classes safely.

But not only is it the lack of body cues that are difficult to navigate, Harpole said, but also the loss of in-person connections with her clients. Harpole’s online classes are conducted via Zoom calls, and she said that while the situation is less than ideal, any opportunity to see her clients is still a great one.

“I just kind of have to teach and hope that I’m not just talking to myself in a room all alone,” Harpole said, laughing. “But it has been fun. It’s been fun because I’m actually doing the workouts with them, so I think that gives us a different kind of connection.”

As a recipient of Round Rock Cares funding, Harpole said the money covers her rent payments, one of the business’s largest expenses. In the initial email, Harpole said the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation’s committee members apologized that that was all they could cover. But Harpole sees it differently: Another month of rent paid for extends the fight into the future, one to carry on after her self-described “new normal” period of time ends.

Her motivation, Harpole said, is the work her clients have engaged in leading up to, and during, this pandemic. The studio is currently empty, and her one-on-ones with clients happen through little boxes on a computer screen, she said. But it is her clients’ ability to carry on and forge ahead, she added, that is a testament to what they—and the Round Rock community—can work to overcome.

“People have said, ‘thank you so much for doing these online classes,’ or ‘we miss you and we can’t wait to see you again,’” Harpole said. “Our businesses—they’re not our jobs. They’re our life; they’re our baby. So whenever we hear people say they remember us or they’re thinking about us, it really means a lot to us.”