By Susan Miller

Missourian Staff Writer

Downtown Washington Inc. is looking to make a few new “friends” during the holiday season.

In August, the organization launched its annual Friends membership drive with a mass mailing, but the drive continues year-round.

“We always do an official push each year, but Christmas is actually a great time to become a ‘Friend’ or to buy a membership for someone on your shopping list,” said Bridgette Epple, executive director.

“Memberships can be purchased in memory of or in honor of someone, or just as a gift,” she said.

Epple said the group’s efforts to maintain Washington’s historic downtown district would be short-lived without supporting friends.

“We hope people will recognize the importance of our mission and find a way to support it,” she said.

The downtown group sent out information on how to become a friend to every resident in the city in August. The mailer included a letter explaining what the organization does and some of its projects, a magnet with upcoming special events, and a self-addressed stamped envelope for people to mail in a donation.

Also, a coupon for 20 percent off the purchase of a collectable Downtown Washington Inc. ornament was included.

Epple said Downtown Washington Inc.’s mission is to promote an attractive and financially stable downtown while preserving its historic resources and enriching the community.

The organization was formed in 1989 when the city of Washington was selected as one the first five pilot communities for the Missouri Main Street Program. Downtown Washington Inc. has maintained its status as a Missouri Main Street Program and as a National Main Street Community to this day.

The group was recognized in 2000, 2001 and 2002 as one of the 20 semifinalists in the Great American Main Street Awards and this year won the award — the highest honor a Main Street Program can receive.

“We have a lot to be proud of and if nothing else, the Friends campaign is really about bringing awareness and educating residents on what we do,” Epple said.

The Friends campaign offers several membership levels beginning at $50 on up. Those who sign up during this drive will receive tickets to special events.

“If you donate at a higher level, you receive even more benefits,” said Epple. “Other benefits of becoming a Friend are being added to our mailing list, being invited to attend quarterly meetings, and being listed as a supporter in the annual Invitation magazine.”