A few good members
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.