Why NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers Is Donating $1 Million to Small Businesses in His Hometown of Chico, California

They don’t call him the MVP for nothing.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has donated $1 million to small businesses struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The money will be distributed to 80 businesses near his Northern California hometown of Chico.

The grants will cover rent plus operational costs for approximately three months. Restaurants and stores in Butte County with 20 or fewer full-time equivalent employees were eligible to apply through the Aaron Rodgers Small-Business Covid-19 Fund at the North Valley Community Foundation in Chico.

Rodgers has already begun telling some of the recipients and posted some of their reactions to his Instagram account. They’ve included owners of local bookstores, auto shops, restaurants, cafés, and bakeries.

“Small, locally owned businesses are the heart and soul of a community,” Rodgers said in a statement to the Chronicle. “In the applications and the videos, it was heart-wrenching to hear about all the obstacles facing restaurants and retail establishments. So many of them are struggling just to stay in business but remain hopeful that there’s an end to this.”

More than 110,000 restaurants–one in six–have permanently closed their doors since the pandemic began, according the the National Restaurant Association.

Rodgers initially announced the fund with a $500,000 donation last month, then decided to up th ante to $1 million. In addition to his contribution, the fund has also received $100,000 from the North Valley Community Foundation and $100,000 from an anonymous donor.

Rodgers previously donated $1 million for recovery efforts following the Camp Fire in Butte County in 2018, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history.

Rodgers grew up in Chico and played football at nearby University of California-Berkeley before being selected by the Packers in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. The 37-year-old has won a Super Bowl and three NFL MVP awards, including one for the season that ended last month.