Many events planned by chamber

MAY 20, 2021


FOLLANSBEE — Emerging from several months of inactivity spurred by the pandemic, members of the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce are making up for lost time, with several events planned for the year ahead.

Chamber President Debbie Puskarich and other chamber leaders announced the group’s plans include a series of free outdoor concerts to begin soon and a job fair to be held July 17.

Eric Fithyan, the group’s concert chair, said four summer concerts will be held at Follansbee Park under the banner Monthly Monday Music Madness.

They will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the last Monday of each month and feature Wheeling dance band Twice as Nice on May 31, the jazz and swing sounds of Matt Hill and Friends on June 28, The M-80s, a 1980s tribute band, on July 26; and local favorites the Ron Retzer Trio on Aug. 23.

He said local businesses have been invited to set up booths in the park during the concerts, with non-chamber members required to pay a small fee.

Puskarich said because many residents had to celebrate last Christmas in a low-key fashion, she wanted to start this year’s holiday season in a big way. As a result, the chamber will present a free concert featuring Ron Retzer on Dec. 1.

She and others also are pleased to revive the chamber’s job fair, which was an overwhelming success when it debuted in 2019.

Because job seekers formed a line down Main Street from Vito’s 2, the restaurant where it was held, this year’s event has been moved to St. Francis Centre.

Jeanne Wohnhas, its chair, and fellow members of the job fair committee, have approached local leaders of such fields as industry and manufacturing, health care, nursing homes and banking about accepting applications from job seekers at the fair.

Committee member Charlotte Kolenc said officials with the West Virginia State Police are recruiting new officers and plans to attend.

Wohnhas said about 40 businesses and organizations involved in aiding job hunters have booked booths for the fair and there’s space for more.

She added representatives of the American Job Center in Wheeling are available to aid individuals in completing resumes they can submit to businesses at the fair and can be reached at (304) 232-6280.

Wohnhas said staff at the Brooke County Board of Education have offered assistance with the same task at a time to be announced.

She said job seekers are encouraged to bring multiple copies of their resume, as some ran out of theirs at the last job fair.

Chambers and James Funeral Homes and Puskarich Accounting have agreed to sponsor two billboards promoting the event, and the chamber is seeking another sponsor for signs to be placed in local businesses.

Puskarich said the chamber’s annual dinner also will return. The Nov. 17 event will include the announcement of the chamber’s Citizen of the Year and guest speaker Pat Ford, former director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle and current director of development of the Frontier Group of Companies, which owns former Weirton Steel property.

She said Pat and Lou Accetollo, a retired teacher and her husband, have funded the chamber grants awarded to local schools for creative teaching approaches and special projects.

Puskarich said thanks to their generosity, two $300 grants will be awarded this year, and applications are being distributed by Suzanne Davidson, education grant chair.

She added the chamber will again observe National Manufacturing Week in October and Shop Small Saturday in November.

Puskarich said several new businesses have opened along Main Street in recent months, and the chamber will welcome them with ribbon cutting ceremonies.

The chamber also heard from Mayor David Velegol Jr., who said sponsors are being sought for new benches at Follansbee Park.

He said the cost is about $717 for each bench, which may be sponsored in memory or honor of a loved one.

Velegol added the new fountain outside Follansbee American Legion Post 45 will be unveiled during the post’s Memorial Day service at 11 a.m.

In related business, Alexis Russel, president of the post’s auxiliary, said the group will be reviving locally the tradition of distributing buddy poppies the week leading up to Memorial Day.

Russel said visitors to participating businesses will find the artificial poppies by a can for donations to aid veterans in need.

She noted the buddy poppy tradition was inspired by the poem, “In Flanders Fields.” It was written by Lt. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian military doctor who was inspired by the sight of a multitude of poppies at the grave site of many World War I soldiers in Belgium.

(Scott can be contacted at