Connellsville Chamber preserves, promotes businesses, community growth
With the advent of spring, the Greater Connellsville Chamber of Commerce is turning its attention to its Community Yard Sale.
During the one-day event in early May, which has grown steadily since its beginning 10 years ago, residents and visitors shop in all parts of the city. Participants pay a nominal fee to have their address listed on a community map that is given to shoppers.
The community sale is just one of many annual events put on by the chamber, which has been serving the community for more than 80 years and continues to promote businesses and growth.
“We are looking toward a bright future for the greater Connellsville area. We are seeing growth in business and industry that will benefit our community. The Greater Connellsville Chamber of Commerce will be working for that growth, knowing that the outlook is positive,” said Bill Fiesta, immediate past president.
Traditionally, the chamber presents fireworks on July 3 for the enjoyment of the community and has sponsored several Lions Square Sunday Summer Concerts, which are scheduled to begin again this summer.
After-hours events are sponsored at area businesses periodically for networking and encouraging new members. A members picnic is held each summer or fall.
In May, the chamber will recognize the Connellsville Area High School business students of the month for the 2012-13 school year. Each is eligible to write an essay for a chance to win a $500 scholarship from the chamber.
Founded Dec. 18, 1929, and incorporated on April 8, 1930, the chamber's purpose, as described in its bylaws, is to preserve the competitive enterprise system of business by creating a better understanding and appreciation of the importance of businesspeople and a concern for their problems, to educate the business community and provide representation in all levels of government and to prevent or address controversies that are detrimental to expansion and growth of business.
The chamber was established to promote business and community growth and development through economic programs and those of a civic, social and cultural nature that are designed to increase the functional and aesthetic values of Connellsville.
The original office was at 107 S. Pittsburgh St. The office now is at 923 W. Crawford Ave.
In 1929, like now, any person, association, fraternal organization, church, corporation or business having an interest in the objectives of the chamber is eligible for membership. Today's membership includes professionals and retired professionals, nonprofit groups, businesses, schools and corporations, totaling more than 200.
A board of directors heads the chamber. Office Manager Ronn Hall runs day-to-day operations.
The board of directors and officers are nominated, then voted on at the annual meeting in February. This is the occasion when annual awards are presented, including Beautification, Distinguished Citizen, Community Service individual and group and the Athena Award, which has been presented for 25 years.
Committees within the board address specific projects and goals of the chamber.
Community events committee members are an integral part of the successes of the chamber. They and other volunteers are often seen setting up for projects, serving refreshments and cleaning up at the end. Other committees within the board are ambassador, community enhancement, community development, strategic planning and membership.
A new special event took place in January. “Winter Wonderland” was held at Pechin Firehouse Restaurant and honored a longtime Connellsville business, Craig Appliance and Furniture.
“We have been a Connellsville Chamber member for decades. In those years, the business base in Connellsville has changed dramatically, and the chamber has remained steadfast in their commitment to our community,” owner Barry Craig said.
Chamber beautification projects include light pole banners and flower barrels for business entrances. Longtime member Tony Grasso leads both of these endeavors to success each year. The banners recognize an anniversary or achievement by a local entity. This year, the banners will honor the 10th re-enactment of the Connellsville Area Historical Society's Braddock's Crossing of the Youghiogheny River.
The chamber purchased decorative lights for the downtown light posts. These are hung each holiday season. The chamber sponsors “Christmas in the Park,” a free annual event for children, with buggy rides, photos with Santa, free treat bag and other fun. It will be held Nov. 23 at Yough Park this year.
The chamber recently donated 52 children's coats to Connellsville Area Community Ministries.
The chamber office provides information of all types, with a brochure rack filled with items of interest to community residents and visitors. A Chamber Choice Insurance Plan harnesses the power of all chamber members in Pennsylvania to provide options in health care coverage.
“Chamber members realize that working together can accomplish collectively what may not be possible individually,” Fiesta said.
Nancy Henry is a freelance writer.