As we approach the end of another calendar year, I would like everyone to know how much I thoroughly appreciate being the Executive Director of the Mattoon Chamber of Commerce. This is my second full year as the head of the Chamber, and serving local businesses and the entire community has been a pleasure. I used to be one of those people who couldn't believe when people claimed they truly "love what they do for a living." Well I can honestly say that I have become one of those people.
Prior to working for the Chamber, I thought I had built a lot of great business relationships with community members as the General Manager at Staples for the previous 16 years. As the Chamber Director, I have increased these relationships at least ten fold. The positive attitude and optimistic future outlook of the vast majority of business owners and community members is incredible. I have learned to focus on the positive and dismiss the negative unless it leads to improvement and progress.
Mattoon has a lot to be proud of, including the downtown revitalization and all the new businesses opening up in the heart of the community. The downtown merchants just held their second successful event of the year with Celebrate Downtown Mattoon, "A Storybook Christmas". Thousands of people visited downtown Mattoon last Friday evening to enjoy the lighted parade, the costumed characters, free S'mores, story time at the library and other events. The Mattoon Middle School Jazz Band and High School Choir also showcased their talents at the standing room only Train Depot. The Celebrate Downtown Mattoon event followed on the heels of the Downtown Trunk or Treat event that was also a huge success and had amazing attendance.
Mattoon has had new businesses opening up all over town, far outweighing any closings we have experienced. The Chamber has been involved with nearly two dozen ribbon cuttings and grand openings of new businesses this past year. Mayor Tim Gover and I always say that one of the best parts of our jobs is welcoming the new businesses to town. The Mayor also mentioned that he believes Mattoon is truly blessed based on his trips to Illinois Municipal League meetings. He says that nearly all the mayors from the other cities in Illinois complain about lack of business growth and loss of population, something that is not an issue here in Mattoon.
Mattoon also has an incredible volunteer spirit. I think it is safe to say that there are few communities our size that are able to hold events such as One Stop Community Christmas and the Special Olympics Family Festival, both held at Lake Land College. These events benefit hundreds of children and require dozens of willing volunteers. These are just two examples of the multitude of volunteer driven events that local businesses, both large and small, sponsor, and encourage employee participation. I consider it an honor to be part of such a wonderful community.