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August 22, 2013

Chamber, DeGraff hold annual clambake fundraiser

Tonawanda News — Two well-known Tonawanda organizations combined resources again this year for what has become their biggest fundraising event. 

The Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas and DeGraff Memorial Hospital teamed up for an annual charity clambake, which is in its 16th year, held at the Shores Waterfront Restaurant on Tonawanda Island. 

Joyce Santiago, executive director of the chamber, said about about 400 people typically attend the event each year, which raises about $20,000 that is split between the two outfits. 

The Chamber of Commerce will use its pull from Wednesday’s fundraiser to increase a focus on drawing business to the Tonawandas, which Santiago said has seen an uptick in notoriety in recent years. 

“We’re trying to get people to realize how much this area has changed,” she said. 

Phyllis Gentner, of DeGraff Memorial Hospital, said the money raised on Wednesday for her organization will be used to update equipment in its gastrointestinal unit, adding that DeGraff and the Chamber often team up for a variety of community events. 

“We’ve partnered with the chamber for many years,” she said. “We feel we’re both integral parts of the community and we want to get the word out there. Inevitably it comes back around.” 

Several hundred attendees gathered on a warm, breezy day along the Niagara River Wednesday, with a steadily long line for raw and steamed clams and a Caribbean band jamming in the background. Dozens of items set for a raffle in the later evening hours were arranged on tables, as groups of attendees gathered under tents to escape from the summer sun. 

Gary Catlin, of Lewiston, who had just loaded up on a plate of raw clams, said he decided to show up for his first time after a local banker recommended it. 

“It’s a very good time and a beautiful day,” he said. 

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