A few good mem­bers

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Ma­honey [email protected]­gar­rynews.ca

One may have de­tected a sense of relief at the Glen­garry Sports Palace in Alexan­dria at around 8 p.m. last Tues­day when the tired corps of Alexan­dria and Dis­trict Cham­ber of Com­merce board mem­bers de­cided to con­tinue on and avoid tak­ing the easy way out.

Faced with the dif­fi­cult prospect of fold­ing the group, the cham­ber board had ef­fec­tively is­sued an ul­ti­ma­tum to its 100 mem­bers: Show up at the an­nual gen­eral meet­ing, vol­un­teer to help out all year-long, or else the cham­ber is toast.

To many the or­ga­ni­za­tion is im­por­tant, even though most of the group’s 100 mem­bers do not share that sentiment.

Of the 20 peo­ple who re­sponded to the SOS, 13 own or rep­re­sent Alexan­dria busi­nesses. The re­main­der in at­ten­dance were there to rep­re­sent North Glen­garry Township and the Maxville Cham­ber of Com­merce.

The turnout was dis­ap­point­ing con­sid­er­ing the ur­gent pleas that had been is­sued prior to the meet­ing, and the topic of the as­sem­bly was the sur­vival of the group.

Yet the ap­pear­ance of more than a hand­ful of peo­ple, in­clud­ing two new faces, was enough to per­suade the weary directors to try to keep the cham­ber go­ing for a year.

Op­ti­mism, like a sec­ond mar­riage, is the vic­tory of hope over ex­pe­ri­ence. How­ever, there is one good reason to be­lieve that the cham­ber can be sal­vaged from the clutches of ap­a­thy, that ubiq­ui­tous force that has dragged down so many other groups in the past. The cham­ber will prob­a­bly hang around for the fore­see­able fu­ture be­cause of Catch The Ace, the weekly draws it launched last year. “It’s a good fundraiser for the com­mu­nity,” says cur­rent

pres­i­dent Phil Cloutier. If the cham­ber dis­solves, it would be forced to relin­quish the li­cence for the draws. That would be a lose-lose sit­u­a­tion.

This year’s an­nual meet­ing had its usual vent­ing ses­sion fol­lowed by pledges to re­ju­ve­nate the group. Prom­ises were made to, as the old folks would say, “pound the pave­ment” and re­cruit new mem­bers. In to­day’s wired world, “meet­ing po­ten­tial mem­bers” trans­lates into “get­ting out there on so­cial me­dia.” Un­for­tu­nately, although “ev­ery­one is on Facebook,” few of those “friends” care about com­mu­nity groups. Ad­dicted to their de­vices, they are en­grossed in their own lit­tle world, con­nect­ing with oth­ers who are just like them and dis­con­nect­ing from tra­di­tional, grass-roots or­ga­ni­za­tions.

The chal­lenge is not new. Why would a per­son ac­tu­ally at­tend a meet­ing or vol­un­teer at a trade show when ev­ery­thing one needs can be down­loaded, os­ten­si­bly for free? We will not wade into a de­bate over the cost of “free con­tent” and the im­pact of so­cial me­dia on com­mu­nity en­gage­ment.

Any­way, the ded­i­cated ac­tive mem­bers of the cham­ber, some of whom have been slog­ging away for decades, de­serve shout-outs and Happy Face emo­jis for hav­ing stuck to it for all these years.

The small nu­cleus could have jus­ti­fi­ably pulled the plug on the group long ago.

Yet, directors now have winds in their sails. With a few new mem­bers and some new en­ergy, there is cause to have faith in the cham­ber’s fu­ture. And the ice is slowly melt­ing. Spring is here; hope springs eter­nal.

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