The holiday season is upon us. The Mattoon Chamber of Commerce wants to remind everyone to shop local and support your local businesses whenever you can. One of the best ways to ensure that your dollars will be spent locally is through support of our Chamber Bucks program. We have over 60 Mattoon establishments who are participating in the Chamber Bucks program. This is a great way to show support for your local businesses who rely on your patronage to keep Mattoon thriving.

We are always asked -- what are Chamber Bucks and how do they work? Anyone can buy Chamber Bucks in denominations of $5, $10, $20 or $25. We provide a list of all the Mattoon businesses who accept the Chamber Bucks dollar for dollar for any purchases. There is no cost to the businesses or the people who receive them. The Chamber provides this service as a benefit to our community at zero cost.

Most of the Chamber Bucks are purchased by area businesses as rewards for their employees and associates. Many of our local industries have invested in our community in a big way by purchasing over $10,000 in Chamber Bucks each and every year. These companies award the Chamber Bucks to their employees for many reasons including work anniversaries, making production goals, perfect attendance, etc. We also encourage the general public to purchase Chamber Bucks in place of gift certificates to ensure the dollars are spent locally.

In the last two months local industries have made a huge investment in our community through the Chamber Bucks program. As an example, LSC Communications (formerly RR Donnelley's) has been very busy lately and decided to use the Chamber Bucks program as an incentive for their employees to reward them for all their hard work throughout the year. Each employee who is willing to work an extra shift will be given an exclusive $50 Chamber Bucks to be spent locally. The response to this program has been so overwhelming from their employees that they have now made two additional purchases of Chamber Bucks from their initial investment. In total, LSC Communications has invested $46,000 in Chamber Bucks during this incentive and rewards program. Another local industrial Chamber member recently purchased $30,000 in Chamber Bucks to distribute to their employees.

We are very excited that this will be the first year the Chamber Bucks program exceeds the $100,000 mark since we started the program over 20 years ago. This is great news for the community because all this money will be spent locally. As a reminder, supporting your local businesses means you are also supporting your families, friends and neighbors. The Chamber Bucks program is one of the best ways to ensure the money is spent locally and also helps increase local tax dollars which supports police and fire protection and infrastructure improvements.

Ed Dowd is the executive director of the Mattoon Chamber of Commerce.

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