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Chamber takes advantage of mall traffic

March 14, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HALFWAY -- While awash in freebies such as key chain clips, pens and medicine spoons, Saturday's exposition of about 40 area businesses and organizations at Valley Mall was "not your typical trade show."

"The companies are out here doing something that engages," said Brien J. Poffenberger, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, while his daughter received a massage from a representative of Synergy Healing Arts Center & Massage School Inc. in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

After a one-year hiatus, the Chamber's annual community market returned, allowing the organization's approximately 600 members to take advantage of the foot traffic at the mall at reduced expense, Poffenberger said. The Chamber's membership employs about 30,000, he said.

"It's one of the opportunities for the Chamber to add value for its members," Poffenberger said.

Todd Palino, owner of the Hagerstown location of Dream Dinners, said he has a loyal group of customers who assemble ingredients for meals in advance at his store, then can more easily serve them weeks later.

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"We know we're making a positive impact on their families," Palino said.

While Palino's business aims to help busy people save time, the Washington County Free Library is helping others save money amid tough economic conditions, reference librarian Lydia Byrne said.

The number of items in circulation topped 1 million last year, and demand for the library's how-to resources, such as auto repair and job search information, have increased, Byrne said.

"We are getting a lot of job seekers," Byrne said while seated behind a table with an array of handouts on the library's services and events, including the third annual Washington County Teen Idol competition on March 28 at The Maryland Theatre.

"We're trying to help out ... a lot of folks are struggling," Byrne said.

Fanny Crawford, director of APPLES for Children Inc., said a lot of people who had visited the organization's booth by Saturday afternoon indicated they were in need of child care.

"It's getting tough," Crawford said of the economic downturn's impact on area families.

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