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Both the Community of Lebanon Association and Lebanon Foundation are familiar names to many area residents and businesses. And both organizations have been active in their efforts to benefit the community.
In January, the two organizations formalized their merger. The new organization is known as Community of Lebanon Association, A Lebanon Foundation Organization.
“We’re excited about the new organization; combining our missions and strengths makes us a much more robust organization. This merger didn’t happen overnight; we began discussions about six months before it officially took place,” said Greg Bracale, chair of its board of directors. “Our merged entity will work collectively to achieve success by directly engaging the business community and assessing their needs and wants.”
Karen Groh, president and CEO of the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the Community of Lebanon Association has been embedded in Lebanon, and especially downtown, since the 1960s. The Lebanon Foundation has been a conduit for enhancing and supporting businesses through Main Street program initiatives like façade improvement grants and downtown events.
“This makes the merger a natural fit as these two organizations both work hard for the revitalization of downtown and the City of Lebanon. The Foundation will provide a financial benefit to drive events and improvements forward,” she said.
“Both organizations had a slightly different focus, but their missions were close enough that it just makes sense to not duplicate efforts. The merger is the best of both worlds for both organizations,” said Vincent Garcia, a member of the new organization’s board who has been involved with both the CLA and Lebanon Foundation.
He said as a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization, Lebanon Foundation has the ability to obtain funding, but the opportunities for volunteers are limited, whereas CLA’s efforts have been successful due to the number of and involvement of volunteers. He served on CLA’s board 2010 through 2019, most of that time serving as treasurer. He said CLA’s work was similar to what it is now.
“I was CLA treasurer for some time, and I saw the good years and the bad years. Membership was always a struggle. Over time the number of members declined as the number of businesses in the center of Lebanon declined. Some events did grow and are now signature events in Lebanon,” he said.
The Lebanon Foundation’s roots harken back to Lebanon 2000 Foundation, Lebanon’s Main Street organization and a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization. As a Main Street organization, it helped improve the economic vitality of Lebanon’s downtown area including façade improvement grants.
Bracale said the foundation continued its economic improvement work through two rounds of state Main Street program funding through the Pennsylvania Downtown Center. The organization also housed the Neighborhood Improvement District Management Association, which provides programs and services within a designated area.
Community of Lebanon Association focuses on making the community of Lebanon a better place to live, work, shop, learn, and do business. “One of the things CLA did in the past was beautification efforts, and we’ll continue to do those. We were also successful at hosting community events such as parades, car shows, and musical festivals; we did those well and will continue to host them,” Bracale said.
Some of those beautification efforts included periodic cleanup events throughout the downtown area. CLA also sponsored planters along the downtown sidewalks. Bracale said the organization won’t be doing planters this year due to a sidewalk improvement project, but instead will sponsor hanging baskets along Cumberland Street. He said they should be up by Mother’s Day, and the CLA is accepting donations to help defray the cost.
Bracale said memorial bricks that were installed at the pergola on 9th and Cumberland streets will be removed and stored since the brick area will be replaced with stamped concrete.
“The memorial bricks will be used as part of the Citizen’s Memorial that will be located at the back of the Farmer’s Market. It will start around the Street Clock and go west,” he said, “Once the downtown sidewalk and curbing project is completed, we will begin to install the new area. We also will be selling new bricks and placing a new time capsule. We expect the brick project to begin in the fall of 2024.”
As part of the merger, the two websites were combined, and the newly designed website, www.lebanoncla.com, will launch later this month. Bracale said the new website will include the organization’s event schedule as well as real estate listings in the downtown area.
“We want to beef up the housing downtown, and get more people living downtown,” he said. “That helps make downtown a more vibrant place, and in other areas there’s a trend toward both young adults and older adults to live in downtown areas where they can walk to restaurants and shops.”
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