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Jeannette's Christmas lights need a new sponsor

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 9:21 p.m.
Rob Fejes, chairman of the Jeannette Business Association Christmas lights program, hangs the decorations along Clay Avenue. This will the the association's final year as sponsors of the program. John Howard | The Jeannette Spirit

The Jeannette Business Association has been asking for help for years when it comes to its Christmas lighting program and the members have decided this season will be its last for sponsoring the project.

Last year, while seeking annual donations to keep the downtown area lit during the holidays, the JBA asked residents and business owners for input about the program.

Donations have been lagging for years and last year the organization's officers asked the community if it was willing to support the lighting program anymore. They didn't get much of a response and this fall the membership agreed that after this holiday season, they will turn over the lighting program to any group that would like to take the reigns.

If no other group or organization steps forward, the lights will not be hung in the city next Christmas.

First Niagara Bank has stepped up the past few years with donations of $1,000 or more, which has enabled the JBA to keep the program going.

Each year, it costs about $3,000 to hang the decorations, to buy new lights, to replace broken decorations, to cover the electricity costs for the lights and to have the lights taken down at the end of the holidays.

Without the financial assistance from First Niagara, the program would have gone dark years ago because donations have not kept pace with the need, according to the JBA.

Many of the lights are broken or are old and need to be replaced. Before that could happen, the JBA would need enough donations just to sustain this year's program and then another round of financial contributions that could go toward the purchase of new lights.

Each season, the JBA sends out more than 400 letters to Jeannette businesses specifically seeking donations for the Christmas lights — slightly more than two dozen businesses responded last year with donations.

When the JBA asked the community last year if residents and business owners wanted the program to continue, and whether they were willing to donate time or resources to the cause, very little input came back.

This year, the association has spent some time working on a new mission for the group and part of the new focus will be to better represent member businesses throughout the city. The main businesses that benefit from the lights are along the Clay Avenue corridor, but few downtown businesses belong to the JBA.

The association has decided that with aging, failing lights and a lack of donations, this will be the final year the group repairs, hangs, maintains and powers the Christmas lights throughout the city.

The JBA's executive committee is willing to assist any new group or organization that would like to take over the Christmas lights project. The association's officers are hopeful that giving a year's notice will enable another group to step forward to take over the project.

In the meantime, donations are still needed to keep the lights lit this Christmas. Each business is asked to contribute $50.

Donations can be made out to the JBA-Christmas Light Program and sent to JBA, P.O. Box 194, Jeannette, PA 15644.

Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 724-838-5154.