By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
New director Leah Bolin has tried to bring a renewed sense of focus to the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce in her first year at the helm — and after raising a record $200,000 during the annual total resource sponsorship campaign — she hopes she’ll have the tools to make it happen.
The annual fundraising period more than tripled last year’s haul of $58,700, and the funds will be used for an expanded slate of events, seminars and community promotion in 2014.
“It’s great for the Chamber and shows we’re vibrant, alive, working for the community and making investments in the community,” Bolin said. “The new things we’re trying are pretty extensive, and we’re just proud the community showed this kind of confidence in us to get it done.”
Starting in 2014, the Chamber will be shaking up the format of some major events and adjusting the time and venue to open them up for more participation and attendance.
The first change? The annual January address to the community from local elected officials, which will now be held in the evening at Terri Pines. The event was previously a stop on the Chamber’s Fourth Friday luncheon calendar.
“We think that will help open it up and allow everyone to attend, with a nice chance to meet and chat with mayors and leaders in a social setting,” Bolin said. “We’re just trying to change some things up and do some things that’ll be beneficial to the community.”
Chamber officials will also be hosting monthly rap sessions for business owners and community members as part of the new Chamber Morning Blend event, which will offer free coffee at the Chamber and a chance to share ideas with the staff.
“A lot of big decisions and plans have been made over a cup of coffee in the morning, so every third Wednesday we’re going to let people come by, have some coffee and share ideas,” she said. “Anyone can come, sit down, complain if they need to, and just talk about whatever they think needs to be done in the community.”
Events such as the state of schools and state of healthcare addresses will also be combined with similar awards luncheons, to create themed events for education and healthcare professionals in the area.
The Chamber has also purchased a booth at the upcoming Bassmaster Classic event in Birmingham, and will offer spaces to local companies in an effort to promote the community at the major event. The booth will be shared with the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame.
“That’s an expensive spot, but it affords local business a chance to get some really major exposure,” Bolin said.
In addition to these new initiatives, Bolin said the Chamber also hopes to revamp and expand existing events and seminars to attract a new audience.
“We want people to buy into the Chamber’s approach and know we’re working for the community,” she said.
The fundraising campaign was led by campaign chair Dr. Vicki Hawsey Karolewics, as well as campaign vice-chairs Charlie NeSmith, Terri McGriff-Waldrop, Gloria Williams and Billy Coleman.
Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 134.