Last Tuesday evening, the Chamber held one of their quarterly mixers out at The Old Peanut Mill. I had already been talking to a couple of my friends, and they indicated they would probably stop by and visit for a while.
When I arrived, Chamber president Teresa Walker and I chatted for a few minutes, and I laughed when she told me, "This mixer is in your honor." I made a few passes at the tables with the goodies, then stepped over to the bar to get a drink.
When Teresa got up to welcome everyone and to thank them for coming, I was at the other end of the room enjoying the pork tenderloin medallions and some of the chips and dip I had picked up during my food run.
And then, she said it again, this time from the microphone.
"Tonight's mixer is in honor of a good friend to the Chamber, Gerry Gamel."
I am not terribly comfortable in crowds, and even less so when attention turns my direction. I felt the color going to my face, and I kept my head down during most of what she said after her initial comments.
But, I will acknowledge that I do consider myself a friend to the Chamber. It is one of the "pet causes" that I readily endorse, and have almost since the day I returned home.
A chamber of commerce, if it's doing its job, benefits everyone in the community. They promote the community as a tourist destination, as a hunting location, and even as a final living situation. They work to try and put the best face forward for the community, and they encourage everyone else in the community to do the same.
I have had my membership in the Chamber since 1996. Since that time, I have served on the board. I've been the vice president, and the president. I've spent late nights cutting up meat for the Wild Game Dinner, and long days figuring out how to make ends meet during rough times. I have agreed with some of their decisions, and I have disagreed with others. And, I remain a member and a supporter.
I know that there are people who don't join the Chamber, and their reasons are varied. They don't feel they are a business that benefits from Chamber activities is one common refrain. It's also the one that is easiest to pick apart.
If we have more visitors in Mason, there will be more money spent here. Even if someone has a business that does not deal directly with visitors, they probably do business with someone who does do business with visitors. Which means that they will spend more money when visitors visit their business.
Another "complaint" is that the Chamber is made up of newcomers who just want to change things. Teresa Walker and her family have been here for generations. Carolyn Copeland can trace her Airheart roots deep into the community. Brenda Kothmann,,,, well, just figure out how many Kothmanns there are!
I chose to support the Chamber a long time ago. We've been on the same side in some fights, and we've gone toe-to-toe in other fights. Yet, I knew that if I stayed involved, they would make decisions that we would all reap benefits from eventually.
We've been in national magazines, had television spots, and show up on the internet. Mason is not one of the dying towns that waits for something good to happen, it is a vibrant community that knows it has to take initiative if it is going to survive.
A strong chamber of commerce is essential to that survival, and I am proud to have been recognized by them for simply having seen their potential and showing them my support.
It’s all just my opinion.