Area merchants still havenít forgotten how state legislators almost decided to move some state offices to Seattle 10 years ago.That’s why 39 businesses in the Olympia-Thurston Chamber decided to chip in to help make this year’s legislators and other government officials feel welcome with more than 200 gift bags.

This marks the 10th year the chamber has sponsored an effort to welcome legislators to town, said David Schaffert, the chamber’s executive director. The event was originally held as an informal welcome reception in the Capitol Rotunda in conjunction with giving gift bags. But because often legislators were too busy to attend the event on opening day, the event was turned into just hand-delivering the bags to each office.

“This was an effort for the business community to give some goodwill,” Schaffert said.

Tina Petrukitas, chamber executive assistant, said twice as many businesses participated in the effort this year compared to last year. Eleven chamber members volunteered to help assemble the items in the bags and 18 volunteered to help chairwoman Kathy Combs in delivering them.

Bag contents included items ranging from notepads to small edible goodies as well as coupons. A red “I will not smoke” rubber ball for computer users from the American Cancer Society urged users to quit smoking. A pocket knife provided by Capital Medical Center contained useful tools ranging from a small pair of pull-out scissors to a corkscrew.

The effort did not go unnoticed, even though many officials were out when chamber representatives entered offices to call on them.

“It’s always nice to feel welcomed,” said governor’s assistant Liz Mattos, who took a bag for Gov. Gary Locke from Chamber President Allen Miller.

By Kamilla K. McClelland, Business Examiner staff