Taken from Opinion section of The Daily Sentinel, Oct. 20, 2011
Chamber feels like second home
As a newcomer to Nacogdoches in 2009, I worried about finding my way, about fitting in and serving a purpose that made me worthy of belonging to this friendly community.
It didn’t take long before a group of kindred spirits welcomed me with open arms.
High-energy, fast-paced people are on a mission to better their community while having fun and making friends along the way.
Who knew a chamber of commerce office could feel like a second home and those within it like old friends and even family?
During this Texas Chamber of Commerce Week, Oct.
17-21, it seems appropriate to reflect on what our chamber provides for the community.
In the spirit of full disclosure, it’s only fair to mention I am entering my second year as a chamber director and first as an executive committee member.
The more I see behind the scenes, though, the more I understand how valuable this entity is. It’s about so much more than paying an annual due or sponsoring an event.
First, and foremost, we are fortunate to have a chamber staff that gives its all.
It’s rare to find any one of these people without a smile and supportive words — President Bruce Partain, membership and marketing manager Kelly Daniel, executive assistant Barbara Holl and administrative assistant Sherry Banks. They are the glue that holds together the chamber.
A board oversees finances and activities while four divisions of volunteers put a hands-on approach: membership services; business development; special projects and fund raisers; and community development.
The membership division heads many of the social functions. Some undertakings by this group include: • Alive After Five, which allows a business to show off its facilities and staff while bringing business people together in a relaxed atmosphere. It’s a great place to make new contacts. The October “AA5” happens to be tonight at the new Commercial Bank of Texas location at 4929 North St.
in Marketplace II.
• Fourth Friday luncheons also are conducive to social interactions while learning about important issues. The next monthly lunch — sponsored by the Sentinel at Hotel Fredonia on Oct. 28 — will feature Nacogdoches Independent School District superintendent Fred Hayes. RSVP with the chamber for the $16 per person lunch.
• Ribbon cuttings, grand openings and ground breakings for chamber members also are performed by the ambassadors and chamber staff, and they assure the moments are captured in photos and shared in the Sentinel.
The business development division supports the business community through several avenues: • The Chairman’s Circle visits more than 200 members each year. They ask what the chamber can do to help businesses, as well as thank them for their membership.
• The small business development committee develops seminars to help sharpen skills of those in the workforce.
Previous offerings included Customer Service, Effective Teamwork and QuickBooks.
• Nacogdoches’ deep ties to agriculture create a need for the Agribusiness Committee. This group helps those outside of the industry understand its purpose and its economic impact.
Special Projects and Fundraisers
• What would Nacogdoches be without the annual Texas Blueberry Festival? This annual event draws more than 10,000 people to downtown. The money raised support chamber events and brings tourism dollars to local hotels, restaurants and retail shops.
• Newcomers and visitors alike can learn a lot about our community through the map and guide produced on behalf of the chamber. I can’t seem to keep either on hand because they also are popular items for new Sentinel reporters, photographers and our marketing consultants who spend a lot of time “in the field.”
I save this one for last, because it’s near and dear to my heart.
• Leadership Nacogdoches is offered every other year and takes participants on a nine-month adventure learning about the community — from education to public safety. As a 2011 graduate, I can say it’s an amazing experience and leaves participants with lifelong memories and friends. Leadership also holds true to its name. Many who go through the program become volunteers throughout the area.
• The Education Committee supports those in our schools and university. Leaders of Tomorrow guides eighthgraders in a program akin to Leadership. Great Expectations brings professionals into the classroom to speak with eighth-graders about the need for education after high school. It breaks down the cost of living and shows how difficult it is to live on minimum wage. It also encourages students to become NOBLE scholars by taking more rigorous high school courses and performing community service.
Those who complete the NOBLE scholar route are eligible to apply for one of 20-plus, $1,000 scholarships to SFA.
• The Government Affairs Committee brings local, national and state representatives together to discuss issues with their Nacogdoches County constituents at events like the Lone Star Legislative Summit in February.
This is just a sampling what the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce does to improve life here. It would take pages of this paper to fully explain every offering.
If something I’ve mentioned interests you as a volunteer opportunity, please contact me or the chamber office.
Maybe you’ll find yourself among kindred spirits, too.
Rayanne Schmid is editor and publisher of The Daily Sentinel. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.