October may be a make or break month for the Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce, with an Oct. 20 luncheon likely to play a big part in charting a future for the organization, and if a future exists at all.
Executive Director Charley Shore described the luncheon — set for 11:15 a.m to 1 p.m. at Aegis of Queen Anne at Rodgers Park (2900 Third Ave. W.) — as a defining moment for whether the chamber can move forward, and begin efforts for 2017.
“This is the month we start planning for next year,” she said, “and it’s really late.”
Among those events — for which the Chamber serves as the driving force — are the annual Queen Anne Days, Trick or Treat on the Ave, the Upper Queen Anne Holiday Lighting, and Holiday Magic with the big tree lighting in Towne Square.
While she stressed that the Chamber has gotten support, Shore said the past year has been a struggle, especially after a big contingency of the chamber’s board of directors departed for various reasons, while others didn’t step up to take their place. In general, she said she felt the chamber’s efforts haven’t been fully embraced like in years’ past. The financial backing hasn’t quite been there either, with the cost to host events increasing over time. The annual tree lighting along Queen Anne Avenue, for example, costs $22,000 a year. Meanwhile, Shore has held her position full-time, while taking just a part-time stipend for the role.
In particular, Shore noted the workload that went into this year’s Queen Anne Days as an example of the need for more volunteer help. While she praised those who claimed ownership of aspects of the event, only a few ended up doing a majority of the work.
To ensure the future of the chamber, Shore said it needs that volunteer commitment, along with buy-in from local businesses, whether in the form of financial contributions, or help coordinating volunteer efforts.
“I believe there are possibilities,” she said, “but I don’t have enough hours in the day to go out and get the membership, and go out and get more sponsorships, get grants, get the volunteers that we need.”
The hope in having more volunteers, she said, is to free her up to do those things.
“If some people could just look at the Chamber, and the things they might be able to do,” she said. “We don’t want everybody to be a board member and have to come to every meeting and have to do everything all the time — but if we can ask many people, ‘Here’s what we need, is anything something that you think that you wouldn’t mind taking this on?’”
Shore listed off examples, like having someone that could focus on grant writing, or could cultivate speakers for chamber meetings.
Hossein Soleymani of HomeStreet Bank serves on the chamber’s board, and called the chamber’s existence crucial to the neighborhood, as a voice for both businesses and the community at large. He said the time commitment for volunteers doesn’t have to be substantial, but any help would be appreciated. The goal is to have a board that’s “not all bankers and insurance agents,” with retired and stay-at-home residents among those who could lend a helping hand.
“I have a feeling a lot of us can put 4-5 hours a month to help the Chamber and help the Queen Anne neighborhood,” he said.
Though he said the chamber could do a better job of publicizing its efforts, the local business community needs to embrace the chamber’s efforts.
“The whole idea is you are — as a business — part of this neighborhood,” he said. “You make money in this neighborhood. You need to be involved more than just opening your doors every morning, and closing in the evening.”