The local Chamber did what?
Your local Chamber of Commerce is much more than a group of businesses and organizations that exist to encourage community economic growth. Throughout its 100 plus year history, the Chamber has been instrumental in spearheading projects that improved the quality of life for its residents. It has left its mark on places we enjoy and wander past in our daily lives. Today we are going to explore some of them.
How many of you are familiar with the Juniata Terrace? Not only is it home to Wilson’s Meats and Grocery, the Terrace is also well known for its rows of identically built houses, and warm sense of community. This company housing was built by the Viscose Artificial Silk Plant for its workers. The Chamber of Commerce was responsible for attracting the plant and the area enjoyed tremendous economic growth because of the well-paying jobs it brought to our community.
Victory Park is home to one of our most pristine walking trails with beautiful river views and memorials to our area’s veterans. Few know that in the 1920s this area was described as an ash heap with huge piles of tin cans and garbage cluttering its banks. Through the efforts of the Chamber, a movement was started to remove the trash and debris and pave the way for the construction of Victory Park as a memorial for all the Mifflin County soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice in World War 1.
The Chamber is also credited with taking on transportation needs, tackling the issues of poor highway quality in the area including improvements in the Lewistown Narrows and Electric Avenue, as well as signage. It was also integral in the improvement of our train service.
Another interesting fact is that Lewistown Armory was secured through Chamber efforts as it raised the funds to secure the $3,500 needed to purchase the 22.7 acres for the location of the Lewistown Armory and then raised the additional $150,000 for the building’s construction. Several important local non-profit organizations had their start as Chamber committees such as: Mifflin/Juniata United Way, The Juniata River Valley Visitors Bureau and the Airport Authority.
Before you think that these great community projects are only part of the Chamber’s past, let me tell you about one that happened recently. After observing several commercial busses coming and going through downtown Lewistown, I observed that there was no designated spot for travelers to sit or escape the elements when waiting for their bus. Once that need was identified, the community quickly came together to donate of their time, talents and money to see a bus shelter erected on the square in Downtown Lewistown.
Many of us eagerly anticipate our annual Independence Day fireworks display. Several years ago, this much-anticipated community event almost disappeared when its major sponsors backed out. The Chamber, not wanting to see this important celebration disappear, took on the responsibility of raising the funds to see the display continue. After missing last year due to the COVID-19 outbreak and safety concerns, the sky will once again light up over the Juniata River Valley, as the celebration returns! At 9:30 p.m., on July 3, just across the Juniata River bridge in the field adjacent to the Mifflin County Industrial Development Plaza, the 2021 Independence Day Fireworks Display will take place, thanks to the generosity of businesses, organizations and individuals. This year we are relying heavily on donations from the community since many of our businesses were significantly impacted by COVID-19. If you wish to contribute to this year’s event, please make checks payable to JRVCC Fireworks Fund and mail to Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce, 1 W. Market St., Lewistown, PA, 17044 or go to https://jrvchamber.com/fireworks to donate online.
It is my goal and vision to see our Chamber continue to be the catalyst for growth and change in the communities we serve. As executive director, I am committed to doing my very best to serve our membership and my community. We are privileged to live in this unique and beautiful Juniata River Valley, and we need to continue to work together, each of us doing our part, to see it become the very best it can be.
Rhonda Moore is executive director of the Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce.