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The California Area Chamber of Commerce voted last week, at its regular monthly meeting, to cancel its annual dinner and scholarship auction for 2021 in light of the circumstances surrounding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The board takes this action following unanimous recommendation from members of the Chamber's annual dinner committee. The board agreed with the committee in it is not comfortable gathering business leaders together for a social event in the near future.

The Chamber's scholarship program has enough money in reserve to provide scholarships to 2021 graduates, so that program will continue. The board voted to offer $2,000 in scholarship funding to be dispersed at the scholarship committee's discretion to graduates for 2021.

The group entertained some discussion about shifting to an online auction format in light of the cancellation but ultimately decided to forgo asking for auction items from area businesses given how difficult the year has been for many businesses financially. Instead, the Chamber will accept monetary donations to the scholarship program if businesses elect to donate in that format.

Chamber dues are also set to be collected soon; the dues notice usually includes an option to contribute to the fund anyway, so this year's notice may include an extra note indicating there will be no dinner and asking for extra contributions to the fund if Chamber members wish to donate.

The Chamber's bylaws state the Chamber's annual meeting is to be held as soon as is practical after Jan. 1 of each year. As such, while the dinner and scholarship auction are canceled, the Chamber will still hold a business meeting at 2 p.m. Jan. 30, 2021, in Centennial Hall on the Moniteau County Fairgrounds. The meeting will include the usual annual business, including electing officers for 2021, annual reports, and the presentation of the 2020 Citizen, Business and Volunteer of the Year awards.

In other news, board members heard from Dan Mesey, the program coordinator for Moniteau County Toys for Tots, at last Thursday's meeting. The Chamber voted to donate $1,500 to the program this year, taken from the Chamber's Ham & Turkey fund, and Mesey was also given a donation check courtesy of the California Lions Club.

Carol Mesey, of Moniteau County Toys for Tots, said last week the pair of donations, along with toys donated by employees at the county's Dollar General stores in Tipton and California, puts Toys for Tots on track to reach its goal of putting toys under the Christmas trees of 300 children this year.

The Chamber also discussed upcoming events with the Christmas holiday in mind.

This year's parade is set for Dec. 5, the first Saturday of December, and its theme will be "Songs of Christmas."

The second Christmas in Proctor Park is set to light up on the same day as the parade. Chamber Executive Secretary Sandra Ratcliff said last week 41 of the 44 businesses or entities that participated last year plan to return. There are also seven new participants for this year.

The board approved purchasing a display that will welcome visitors to the park for $450 through Grace Designs.

The California Area Chamber of Commerce's next regular meeting will take place at 8 a.m. Nov. 12.

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