“We changed the name a little bit to reflect what we’re actually doing,” said Julie Blaylock, FWKCC president/CEO. “We didn’t want to call it Holiday Open House and disappoint anybody by it being different from what they have come to know and love.”
For many years, FWKCC has held the Christmas open house as a way of thanking its members for supporting the Chamber throughout the year. In 2004, it grew to include a large, enclosed tent and samples from restaurants in and around Town.
However, in light of the COVID pandemic, the event has evolved.
“The house is still technically open; it’s just not open in the same way,” Blaylock said. “We are going to dedicate (Tuesday,) Dec. 15, from 10 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.
“The Chamber office, (11826 Kingston Pike,) will be open, kind of like our open house event, just to members dropping in, whatever time is convenient to them, and visiting with us a little bit,” she added.
“We are still going to decorate the office like we always do, so we’ll have the big tree. We will have some refreshments; obviously more limited than we have at the traditional open house, when we featured 25 restaurants. We can network, almost in a one-to-one setting, before everyone breaks for the holidays.”
Additionally, she said between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m., PatDome Promotions of Knoxville will be on hand with a laser engraver, as there will be “goody items giveaways” that might be engraved on site, and FWKCC West Under 40 will provide a hot chocolate bar.
Regarding the “drop-off” portion, Blaylock said, “We are still doing our holiday give-back for charity, which we do every year.
“It usually culminates with the open house because that is the night people will drop off their donations — toys or clothes or whatever it is we’re collecting,” she added.
“They’ll still be able to that on Dec. 15.”
For the past two years, the Chamber has adopted families through different member partners.
“This year, we again are adopting several families,” Blaylock said. “We are going to adopt them through the local office of the American Cancer Society in Knoxville and Faith Promise Church in Farragut.”
Blaylock said the American Cancer Society is finding families of someone undergoing cancer treatments.
“We know that cancer is incredibly stressful and expensive, even in normal times; but in times like the year so many families have had, it’s an additional burden that nobody wants or needs.”
At the same time, Blaylock said Faith Promise Church is finding local families “who are struggling, whether through job loss or the death of an income provider, and need help to have a happy holiday.”
She said the Chamber will be getting wish lists from each of the families being adopted.
Once FWKCC receives the wish lists, it will send them to members, who also can get a copy of the lists by e-mail or phone.
“Any member can pick one item, two items off any of the lists and just bring them on Dec. 15,” Blaylock said. “We will make sure it goes to that family.”
Or, she said Chamber members who are able might adopt a whole family, which means the member is committed to fulfilling every single item on that wish list.
In return, “We will give (that member) advertising as one of our 2020 Great Givers,” Blaylock said.
Non-members can help
Non-members also may help with the donations.
“If anyone is looking to help a local family, we are more than happy for him or her to bring a new toy, a new piece of clothing or whatever,” Blaylock said.
She added, however, donations do need to be new and unwrapped.
And “even if a family has already been adopted — we get duplicates of items on Dec. 15 — people don’t need to worry because there’s so much more need out there than just even the families we’re adopting,” Blaylock added.
“For example, the first time we did family adoptions in 2018, we adopted six families, and we ended up collecting so many items that the duplicates were redistributed to help an additional seven families. … We ended up helping 13 families.
“We’re hoping to do something similar this year.”