Members of the Coal Country Chamber of Commerce gathered recently at JoDanni’s Amore for their
15th annual awards banquet. 

Following the meal they heard encouraging words from Chamber president Ruth Loveless and listened to a fun presentation by a guest speaker Terry Todt of WSMI radio station.

Then the 2014 Chamber Business of the Year award was presented to a surprised Jessica Ely, owner of the State Farm Insurance office of Gillespie.  Ely, who has been with State Farm for 25 years and in Gillespie for seven years, said that coming to the community has been a good move for her and her family.  She was thankful to many people of the community including her policy holders. She stated that a large part of being an insurance agent is listening to people and helping them find a solution.

In her presentation, Chamber President Ruth Loveless told the listeners that the Chamber is growing.  There are 51 registered businesses in Gillespie, 22 in Benld, 10 in Mt. Clare, 8 in Dorchester, 2 in Wilsonville, and 1 in Sawyerville.  None were registered in Eagarville, but several business owners live there.

Loveless concluded that “This community has potential.   We have something to work with.  All we need is to do something!”  Loveless sees opportunities in using Facebook for your business, and spoke about the Blue Carpet Corridor weekend coming in June 2015 and the 11th Annual Summer Concert Series.  She urged, “Get involved and do something!”

WSMI’s Terry Todt, who has been in broadcast for 37 years talked about working together to reach a common goal.  In the lighthearted manner for which he is known, he poked fun at himself telling about some of the mistakes in words or pronunciations that he has made over the years, revealing that some day he would like to write a book, “Stupid Things Radio Announcers Say.” He urged the audience to watch what they say, how they say it and to work together for a better community.

The Coal Country Chamber of Commerce executive board is encouraging the community to contact them with questions and ideas on how to improve the community.

Join us for the 15th Annual Banquent & Business of the Year Award

Here are a few more details about the banquet on January 31.  Ihope that you have received your invitation in the mail by now!
The Coal Country Chamber of Commerce 15th Annual Banquet and Business of the Year Award will be held on January 31st at 7 p.m. at JoDanni’s Amore.  A social hour with a beer and wine cash bar will be held from 6 until 7 p.m.  The dinner will be followed by Guest Speaker, Terry Todt, of WSMI Radio, and the presentation of the 2014 Business of the Year Award.  

The menu for the dinner is:  Grilled Filet Strips with mushroom demi-glaze, red skin mashed potatoes, steamed vegetable, Jodanni salad, cherry cheese pie, iced tea and dinner rolls.

Reservations are $20 per person, or $35 per couple, or a table of 8 for $135.
Anyone can attend by calling 217-710-5218 and asking for a reservation form.  Reservations are needed by January 23.

Announcing the 16th Annuak Snack with Santa & Holiday Sparkle


The Coal Country Chamber of Commerce has activities planned for Friday, December 5, and Saturday, December 6.    Holiday Sparkle Open House will run from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. on Friday, December 5, and from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday. All during this time, downtown eateries will have special discounts and participating businesses will have special offers.

During the Holiday Sparkle Open House hours, downtown businesses will be conducting sales and in-store promotions on both days.  Downtown Gillespie businesses are going to showcase Holiday Sparkle with colorful displays of Christmas themes and enticing specials of the season while the Coal Country Chamber of Commerce Choo Choo chugs up and down the downtown area. 

Holiday shoppers and visitors can ride the Choo Choo FREE and stop in the retail shops to enjoy the warmth and the bargains. The Coal Country Chamber of Commerce will host the Sixteenth Annual Snack with Santa at the Illinois Valley Center at 217 E. Walnut (next to the Gillespie Police station) from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, December 6.  Santa will arrive at 8:30 at the Illinois Valley Center for Snack with Santa.  He will stay until 11:30 to visit with each of the children attending and hear their special requests for Christmas.  During the Snack with Santa, a digital picture of the child with Santa will be taken in front of a Christmas background.  Clients and staff of the Illinois Valley Rehabilitation Center will do their usual beautiful decorating of the background.  Each child will receive a snack of Prairie Farms milk or juice and a treat from Casey’s General Store served by the VFW Ladies Auxiliary 4547.

Each child will be given a ticket for a free ride on the CCCC Choo Choo. There is a donation of $5 for Snack with Santa which includes the digital photo, the snack, a ticket to ride the Choo Choo, a goodie bag, and a letter mailed to him or her from

Across the street from Snack with Santa is the Illinois Valley Barn in the Garden Gift Shop where delightful crafts which are handmade by clients of Illinois Valley are displayed and offered at special prices for this event.  The shop will be open for business on December 6  from 9 a.m. until Noon. 

Ride the Coal Country Chamber Choo-Choo from one end of town to the other, and take the children to the Exotic Petting Zoo.  Besides the Alaskan Reindeer, full grown hump-backed camels, zebu, and water buffalo can be petted and fed by the children from 9 a.m. until noon in downtown Gillespie, next to UCB Bank, on Coal Country Chamber businesses who have sponsored this Snack with Santa and the Petting Zoo are 1st BancFinancial, Greg Craine, Agent; Amore’ Restaurant; Country Financial/Tina Olroyd, Agent; Dairy Queen of Gillespie; Dee-Dee’s Designs; Drew Ford; Farmers Insurance, Adam Tallman, Agent; FNB/Benld Banking Center; Louann Brown, Friends of the Gillespie Library; Furniture Rescue; Gina Gucciardo, CPA; Hampton Inn; Hebenstreit Apartments; Hick’s Maytag Appliance Center; Michelle’s Pharmacy of Gillespie; New Belongings Aquatic; Reid’s Service; Stan’s Barber Shop; State Farm/Jessica Ely, Agent; Sullivan Drug, Inc., UCB/Gillespie Banking Center.  Prairie Farms is donating the beverage for Snack with Santa and VFW Auxiliary ladies as well as Illinois Valley and Chamber volunteers make the opportunities for children possible. 

Holiday Sparkle, Snack with Santa, the CCCC Choo Choo, and the Exotic Petting Zoo will provide an opportunity for consumers to “Shop Local, Buy Local”, and for celebration in enjoying the holiday season in downtown Gillespie.

More information on Snack with Santa, the Choo Choo and other activities of the Coal Country Chamber of Commerce please visit our Facebook page,  leave a message at 217-710-5218 if you wish to contact the Chamber or email at

Ribbon Cutting at HeadBangerz Hair & Tanning

The Coal Country Chamber of Commerce welcomed the Chamber's newest member HeadBangerz Hair & Tanning at 209 S. Macoupin in downtown Gillespie.  In picture from left to right are:  Mike Brill, CCCC Treasurer; Carolyn Sawyer; Jamie Rucker; Jennifer Greathouse; Kendahl Presnell, Paul Rasmussen; Kami Hopper and Andy Hopper of Triple H Auto in Benld; Stephanie Willis, owner of HeadBangerz; Linda Rasmussen; Maris Brill (front); Margie Brill, CCCC Website Coordinator; Tracy Holliday; Stacy Booth; Jackie Rasmussen; Jackson Rasmussen; Chris Rasmussen, and Lois Brill.

Kelly Miller Circus is Coming to Benld City Park

The Coal Country Chamber is excited to announce that the Kelly Miller Circus is coming to the Benld City Park on Wednesday, October 8th.  There will be two shows, 4:30 and 7:30pm.

Tickets are available locally at:
Benld City Hall
FNB- Benld Banking Center
Gillespie City Hall
Furniture Rescue
Michelle's Pharmacy

Ground Breaking Held For Brian Bequette Cabinetry

A groundbreaking ceremony was held at 100 N. 6th Street in Benld for Brian Bequette Cabinetry, Inc.  The groundbreaking is the beginning of the erection of a brand new 6,500 sq. ft. production facility to house Brian Bequette Cabinetry operations. Plans are to erect a retail store and workshop in an expansion of the company.  Bequette is a master craftsman and produces custom made cabinetry.
Pictured left to right are:  Mike Brill, CCCC Treasurer: Margie Brill, CCCC Web Site Coordinator; Sally Bartlett, Madisont Communications; Ruth Loveless, Furniture Rescue and CCCC President; Jim Kelly, Benld Alderman; John
DeLong, R. P. Lumber; Mary Ann Scopel, Benld City Treasurer; Dione Rabida, Branch Manager of FNB/Benld Banking Center; Teresa Tucker, Benld Alderwoman; Brian Frensko, Benld Alderman; Brian Bequette, Owner of Brian Bequette Cabinetry, Inc.; Gloria Sidar, Mayor of Benld; Mickey Robinson, Benld Alderman and CCCC Executive Director; Jim Tilashalski, Benld Alderman; Shari Albrecht, Director of MEDP. Photo is Courtesy of The BenGil Post.