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Cashman: A winning recipe for Crystal Lake Main Street

Crystal Lake's award-winning downtown revitalization project wasn't made of brick and mortar.

It was constructed out of brown sugar, flour, ginger – and a pinch of cinnamon.

Downtown Crystal Lake/Main Street's "Gingerbread for the Salvation Army" received the 2012 Lieutenant Governor's Award for Excellence in Downtown Revitalization during the Illinois Main Street Conference Sept.13-14 in Quincy.

Other award-winning towns included Batavia, Bloomington, Cambridge, Elgin, Genoa, Jacksonville, Moline, Momence, Pontiac, Prophetstown, Quincy and Waukegan.

The presentation of the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence has been an annual occurrence since 1994, the year after Illinois Main Street was established.

A total of 17 awards were presented, four in each of the Main Street categories of Design, Organization, Promotion, and Economic Restructuring, and one for Volunteer of the Year.

Crystal Lake's project was in the Organization category.

“Across the state we see renewed efforts at revitalizing our downtown communities, and the passion and dedication shown by these honorees is inspiring,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon. “These honorees exemplify the best of what our state has to offer and remind us that Illinois Main Streets are open for business.”

Other award winners included Armida and Joe Dominguez of Elgin, who received the Volunteer of the Year Award for raising thousands of dollars for the Downtown Neighborhood Association.

They serve as liaisons to the Hispanic community to encourage its involvement with DNA and with other community organizations.

In 2011 they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Projects in Batavia, Jacksonville, Moline and Quincy received recognition in the Design category; Promotion award winners were Batavia, Bloomington, Jacksonville and Prophetstown; and Batavia, Elgin, Momence and Waukegan won Economic Restructuring awards,

In addition to Crystal Lake, award-winning projects in the Organization category were Cambridge Main Street for Christmas on the Square, Genoa Main Street for Partner and Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, and Pontiac P.R.O.U.D. for its 2012 Premier Partnership Campaign.

Nineteen downtown businesses helped raise nearly $2,400 in Crystal Lake Main Street's Gingerbread for the Salvation Army fundraiser last year.

Participating businesses crafted their own gingerbread creations and displayed them next to a countertop Salvation Army Red Kettle. The public voted for their favorites with every dollar they dropped into the red kettles.

Many gingerbread creations were reflections of the business: A hair salon crafted a gingerbread barber chair, and a fabric store combined gingerbread with sewing notions.

"Not only is this a great way to raise much needed funds for my organization, it also proves to be an incredible way to get the involvement of area businesses and their customers," said Major John Price of the Salvation Army. "The program is unique to Crystal Lake and norhing similar is being done at any Salvation Army in the U.S."

"That's what it is all about," said Diana Kenney, executive director of Downtown Crystal Lake/Main Street. "It is a unique blend of our organizations. The Salvation Army gets the support and the people they serve benefit.

"It's the heart of the community – the downtown businesses – giving back to the community that support them," Kenney said.

Last year was the third annual Gingerbread for the Salvation Army. Businesses already are getting their measuring cups ready for this year's fundraiser.

For more information, visit www.downtowncl.org.

• Email ccashman@shawmedia.com

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