While Lebanon City is host to many non-profit organizations working to make the community a better place, the Community of Lebanon Association (CLA) has been spearheading beloved initiatives such as the downtown flowerpots, car show, music fest, food truck palooza, carriage rides, tree lighting ceremony and holiday parade for decades.
Craig Gates, the organization’s Treasurer, and Greg Bracale, CLA President, are two community members who have been with the Community of Lebanon Association for many years.
Both Craig and Greg are Lebanon natives who joined the CLA because they want to make their hometown a better place.
Greg said the CLA was founded in the 1960s as an initiative of the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce; however, it is no longer part of the Chamber today. When the Chamber first formed the organization, it was called the Center of Lebanon Association.
The group’s initial intention was to focus primarily on the city’s downtown area. However, recently the group has changed its focus to be more inclusive of the wider central business district, although membership is countywide.
Greg said the mission statement of the CLA is to make Lebanon “a better place to live, work, and play.”
The CLA focuses on clean and green initiatives such as community clean-ups and their downtown planter initiative, which they have been doing for over 20 years.
Additionally, Greg said the CLA fosters an environment of networking that promotes businesses in Lebanon. They accomplish this through various community events such as business luncheons, the Small Businessperson of the Year Award, the Lester Leffler Community Service Award, and more.
Greg said, this year, the CLA is also planning to restart the Memorial Brick Project considering the city streetscape initiative that will begin later this year. He said the brick project initially started 20+ years ago at the corner of 9th and Cumberland Streets, in the area known as the Memorial Walk.
Once dates are confirmed, the CLA will have an order form with details on pricing, brick sizes, and how many lines of text each can contain. Bricks will then be placed in the new location around the clock in the Lebanon Farmers Market parking lot, and participants will be notified.
Once the walk is complete, the CLA will hold a dedication ceremony.
Greg said he believes the CLA is an excellent organization to bring people together and get things done. He said the CLA is event-heavy because they want to attract people to the Downtown to see and experience the many businesses there.
Craig said the organization is funded primarily through its membership dues. He said that the CLA has roughly 200 members (between businesses and individuals), and those funds account for most of the group’s annual initiatives.
Unfortunately, Craig said, like many organizations, the CLA struggles to find volunteers for their initiatives. Recently, the CLA had a downtown beautification event for the United Way Day of Caring, which attracted several volunteers from the community, and they hope to expand on that base.
Greg said the CLA needs approximately 60 volunteers for the Holiday Parade alone. In addition, he said each of the giant “Macy Day” style balloons requires roughly 15 people to hold and walk with them.
Greg added the CLA is always looking for other organizations to partner with. He said the CLA has worked with the Main Street Program, Making a Difference of Lebanon PA, and the City of Lebanon in the past.
The CLA’s membership pamphlet can be found throughout Lebanon City, such as at the Farmer’s Market, Lebanon Welcome Center, and Fulton Bank.
For more information about the CLA, their initiatives, and the upcoming memorial brick project, you can visit their Facebook page (CLA) and website (LebanonCLA.com). To become a member, you can fill out an application directly through the website, which will help the organization continue its work.