Samaritan Saturday: SIU alumnus develops website to aid local businesses during COVID-19

By Kallie Cox, News Editor

The Daily Egyptian has selected SIU alumnus Jeremy Packer as our good Samaritan for Samaritan Saturday because of his work in the community on behalf of struggling local businesses.

In order to help businesses stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Packer created 618 Gift Cards, a website dedicated to helping them sell and produce gift cards.

Packer was born and raised in Metropolis, Illinois and attended SIU to earn a degree in computer science. He started a software development agency called “Packer Labs” at SIU’s research park. After school, he moved to Silicon Valley after creating an app known as “Rapchat” that allows people to freestyle rap with their friends. Packer now lives in St. Louis and works in Edwardsville.

Advertisement

Packer said he created the website after listening to a story on NPR while doing his dishes about how purchasing gift cards from businesses now is essentially giving them a 0% interest loan.

“I was actually looking for a restaurant in my hometown that I could purchase a gift card from. Specifically this one that I grew up with and I couldn’t find anything online for them,” Packer said. “The more and more I started looking at other businesses the more I realized that there wasn’t an actual guide to do it.”

Packer said he knew he couldn’t be alone in wanting to support these businesses.

“I just went ahead and made 618 Gift Cards to make a free site for everyone to use to purchase gift cards, kind of doing their part to help the businesses while also practicing social distancing,” Packer said.

The website currently represents businesses from Carbondale, Carterville, Murphysboro and Du Quoin. Its Carbondale businesses include Quatro’s, New Kahala, Dale’s Burger Shack and Two Bugs and a Bean.

“I am honestly just trying to get it in front of as many people as possible,” Packer said. “We don’t know how long this is going to last and I think it’s a good idea to have a resource.”

Packer said they are in the process of onboarding another 11 businesses to the site. 

Advertisement

When someone purchases a gift card on the site, they do so directly from the business and they are emailed an online gift certificate.

“We make no money from the site,” Packer said. “Everything is free for the user and free for businesses; all that we ask is that we have businesses fill out a form on our site and the reason we do that is to make sure no one is uploading illicit gift cards.”

Packer said from what he can see, the site has sold approximately 30 gift cards so far.

“I am doing this as just a thank you to the community,” Packer said. “Carbondale and SIU gave me so much, I’ve won a lot of awards from SIU. It gave me so many opportunities and I just felt like I had to give back to the community.”

Packer’s site can be viewed here.

News Editor Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @KallieECox.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

Advertisement