The Union County CEO program is creating and selling “Christmas Around the Community” gift boxes.Union County CEO program students include, in the first row, from left, Madi Turner, Jaley Watkins, Julia Hall, Kyleigh Matuszewich, Olivia Capel, Aubrey Fisher and Lilli Mason. In the second row are Lexie Lingle, Darrian Quick, Nate Baggott, Nate Belcher, Maddox Thorpe, Will Halter and Emily White. Photo provided.

CEO Christmas boxes feature local products

Motto for class business: ‘A gift FROM the community is a gift TO the community’
Orders were taken starting last Friday – and the response has been very, very good.

Union County CEO program students have been posing a couple of questions to the community as part of their work on a special project for the upcoming Christmas holiday season.

The questions:

Do you want to support your local businesses in Union County?  

Wouldn’t you love to safely holiday shop from your house?  

The answers to both questions appear to be a resounding “Yes” from the community.

This year, the Union County CEO program’s class business is selling gift boxes of local products and services for “Christmas Around the Community.” 

Currently, the list of  box contents includes samples of baked goods from Anna Baking Company and Davis Pastry, coffeeshop treats from Kiki’s and Hebrewz, apples from Flamm Orchards, a lavender product from Shawnee Hills Lavender, honey items from C’s Bees, a locally made sugar scrub from Lilli of the Valley, locally made lotion from The Farmer’s Granddaughter, lip balm from Wildflower Meadow All Naturals, along with an item from Anna-Jonesboro National Bank. With the box will be a half gallon of Rendleman Orchards cider and an envelope of coupons and discounts to several local businesses.

“Christmas Around the Community” gift boxes were being pre-sold on the CEO program’s website,, and on their Facebook page, Union County CEO.

Orders were taken starting last Friday – and the response has been very, very good. 

As of early this week, the CEO program reported the fewer than 50 of 200 Christmas gift boxes which had been created were still available. The gift boxes were expected to sell out by Thursday, today.

Drive-through, no contact pickup is set for Saturday, Nov. 28, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at CEO’s festive booth.

The booth is scheduled to be located along South Main Street at the First Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s parking lot during the celebration of Small Business Saturday/Christmas in Downtown Anna. 

Delivery that day also was being made available in Union County for a small fee.

“A gift FROM our community is a gift TO our community” has become the motto of this business.  

Recently, Susan Odum, from University of Illinois Extension spoke to the students.  

CEO program student Maddox Thorpe wrote: “She talked to us about our local economy and the importance of shopping local and how it will help our community. We talked about sales taxes and the money flow of our local economy. It was crazy to see how things like just buying small things from local businesses effects the community. I never really thought about this until Wednesday, and it really made me rethink where I put my money.”

This business could not have been so successful without the sponsors who have provided financial backing, goods and services.  At the time of this writing, they include the following.

Gold Sponsors: Anna Baking Company, A-J National Bank, Quick’s Skating Rink and C’s Bees.

Silver Sponsors: Anna State Bank, Union County Hospital, Kiwanis Club, Kiki’s Coffeehouse, Dairy Queen, Lilli of the Valley, Amanda Myers Neilson Photography, WIBH, Hebrewz Coffeehouse, The Farmer’s Granddaughter, Rendleman Orchards, Flamm Orchards and Triple C Meats.

Bronze Sponsors: Shawnee Hills Lavender, Davis Pastry, The Goddard Place, Wildflower Meadows All Naturals, Kelli Wood/Edward Jones, Gurley and Son, Rodney Wright’s Towing, Sonic, Anna Tire and Auto, Steve Hornbeak Productions, Crabtree and Merriman, Union County Farm Bureau, Union County Market, Union County Women in Business, Reppert’s Office Supplies,  WildCat Nutrition, Rusty’s Home Center, Union County Chamber of Commerce, City of Anna and City of Jonesboro.

White Sponsors: Doc’s Lakeside Cabin, Martin’s Sharp-All, Phases, Farmers State Bank, Brumleve Farms, Whitney Accounting, Shawnee Hills Real Estate, Lambdin Farms, Parrish and Lambdin, Rural Health Inc., Moreland Eye Care, Nalee Rae’s, Schaefer Excavating, Havisham House, H & R Block/Mary K. Miller, Bald Knob Cross and First State Bank of Dongola.

CEO program student Nate Baggott noted in his journal: “Our class business is looking really good in my opinion. I like how it will actually support more than just our own CEO team in the hard times people and businesses are having right now. I think people will appreciate the effort that we put into this and how it’s truly for the betterment of the community.”

Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities, CEO is a 2-credit weighted high school class that educates students about life, leadership and business skills.  

This year, there are 14 seniors in the class who were selected from 20 applicants from Union County high schools.  

The class always meets in a local business, from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. every school day. 

The class is facilitated by Melanie Smith and taught by women and men in business and community leaders as they share their expertise and personal stories.  

“I find it quite astonishing that local businesses are so able and willing to pour (support) into this program,” CEO program student Aubrey Fisher shared.  

“With each local dollar, an investment is made in our futures.  

“Also, I feel as if tasks such as talking to local business owners are preparing us for a whole slew of future experiences. It’s as if, suddenly, the prospect of having an interview or talking to a professor seems less daunting.  

“I am already less afraid of talking to those in roles above me, and I assume this feeling will only grow as the year progresses.”







The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158

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