Views of the Valley: Chamber makes seasons bright

A past year’s Tinsel Trail in downtown Carbondale. This year’s trail will kick off on Dec. 2.

The year 2020 has shown us nothing less than a period of continuing uncertainty.

Many of our restaurants, small businesses, large businesses, nonprofits and The Greater Carbondale Chamber of Commerce have been affected immensely by this adaptation. Moving into the holiday season, we see this uncertainty within the community.

The Greater Carbondale Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Carbondale YMCA kicked off the unofficial start of the holiday season with Halloween.

This year was unique compared to years past where we were able to do to our downtown business trick-or-treating event. We did not believe it was safe with COVID-19 cases on the rise, which is why this year we could not conduct that specific event, and it would have been irresponsible of us to bring people into these large crowds.

We couldn’t and wouldn’t let the community down, especially the children of our community this year. The Greater Carbondale Chamber of Commerce reached out to the Carbondale Area School District to use their parking lot to hold a drive-thru trick-or-treating event, which is biggest parking lot in the Carbondale area.

When we received the OK, James Wiggins of the YMCA went to work, and between the Chamber and the YMCA — with the support of the City of Carbondale — we were able to have over 15 businesses and community groups get involved to pass out candy to children in a safe manner by simply driving through. Volunteers handed candy to children in their vehicles. When the event came to a close, it was shown how much the community needed this, how much the children needed this. The event had over 900 children come through.

The next community event sponsored by the Greater Carbondale Chamber of Commerce as we move into the holiday season is the Tinsel Trail.

The Tinsel Trail is a community-focused event to spotlight various businesses and groups, with these entities sponsoring a tree to decorate.

We started this holiday event three years ago, with 12 trees. The second year, it doubled to 24 trees, and this year we are close to 50 trees.

A business or community group sponsors a tree and decorates it to their liking. The Chamber puts up all of the trees, wires them together and supplies business signage for all of the trees. The proceeds from the tree sponsorship goes back into the community.

Last year, we were able to make a large monetary donation Catholic Social Services’ food bank. This year we will do the same and donate all of the profits to a local food bank.

During the night of the lighting of the Trees, we will also be collecting toys for the Salvation Army by filling the Chamber truck. These toys will be passed on to children in our area.

The lighting of all of the trees will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 2 and they will be lit every evening through the second week of January. This event promotes social distancing, you can walk through the pathways of trees or simply drive by.

The mission of this event is to continue to bring strength to the our community, bring holiday joy to the community and to give back to the community groups and businesses that need support during what has been a very rough year.

The Greater Carbondale Chamber of Commerce will keep pivoting to keep the Chamber strong, our community strong and the business community strong. All of these facets work together. If we can keep our community strong, we can keep our business community strong.

John Gorel is the executive director of the Greater Carbondale Chamber of Commerce. If you are interested in becoming a member or supporting their efforts, please send an email to jgorel@carbondalechamber.org or call 570-536-1925.