Wheeling Chamber closing 'temporarily'
It might be goodbye for now, but the hope is it's not goodbye forever.
The Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce is like many of the businesses it serves -- it has struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
An independent, not-for-profit 501(c) 6 organization, the Chamber gets its funding from memberships and sponsorships for events. Since both of those dried up during the last few months due to the pandemic, and since the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) does not include 501(c) 6 organizations, the Chamber is unable to meet its budget and has elected to close its doors.
"The Chamber is not going away," said Linda Callahan, the Chamber's executive director. "We are just closing temporarily. It's an unfortunate situation because the Chamber is valued by so many of our businesses. We have more than 200 members. But this (the COVID-19) pandemic has changed things on so many levels."
Some businesses in Wheeling have completely shut their doors. Others no longer have funds to pay Chamber dues, which allow the group to organize events such as the job fair, which was canceled in April, or the annual Taste of the Town, which caters to local restaurants.
"We try to tie our community to our businesses. We try to assist and promote business," Callahan said. "If ever there was a time when the Chamber was needed, it is definitely now, at a time like this.
"We have received all kinds of kind responses from our members about this and it is our hope that we can get up and running again soon."
Callahan said a merger with other local Chambers is likely. She said she and the board are eyeing the DBR Chamber of Commerce serving Deerfield Bannockburn Riverwoods, and the Buffalo Grove Lincolnshire Chamber, as possible partners.
"I see a merger happening," she said. "We just need to get our boards together so that we can quickly decide an outcome. That would be a win for our members, for us to get going again and for them to be able to interact with even more business people from different towns."