Chamber of Commerce director: What’s in store for 2024

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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WEST POINT — Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Carrie Wood talked about what’s in store for 2024 at Thursday’s noon-hour meeting of the West Point Rotary Club. The Chamber has been very busy through the first two months of the new year. This past week alone the GVACC hosted a candidate forum at Valley City Hall Thursday evening and had a well-attended breakfast program at Inspire Academy earlier in the week. The candidate forum gave Chambers County voters a chance to hear from candidates in the March 5 Republican and Democratic primaries. These races include a probate judge race between incumbent Paul Story and challenger Troy Davis, the race for county superintendent of schools between incumbent Dr. Casey Chambley and challenger Dr. Sharon Weldon on the Republican side and a race for a county school board seat between incumbent Jeffery Finch and challenger Rico Newton on the Democratic side.

An estimated 60 people were present at the breakfast program at Inspire Academy in LaFayette.

“I’ve been with the Chamber for 10 years now,” Wood said. “I started in 2014. My assistant, Taryn Parrish, has been with me for the past two-and-a-half years.”

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The Chamber has a 10-member board of directors and a group of 16 volunteers known as ambassadors who meet at least once a month to help plan various activities. A total of 44 local high school students are organized as junior ambassadors. One of their major projects is picking up litter off the first mile of County Road 289 from Lanett toward Fredonia. They do it twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.

“We started our junior ambassadors with 14 high school students,” Wood said. “We have grown a lot since then.”

Through this program, the students learn the value of public service and how it can help transform a community.

The Chambers County Commission supports such efforts. 

“They will pay your organization twice a year to do this,” Wood said. “If you have a church group or other organization that’s willing to do this, you might want to contact them for details.”

Wood takes before and after photos of CR 289 on clean-up days. It looks really good when the kids have finished for the day. Unfortunately, that look doesn’t last long and sometimes, some people will try to get it back littered again while the cleanup is underway.

The junior ambassadors fill up many bags of litter while they are out on the road. One year a driver ran off the roadway and onto the shoulder of the road to smash one of those bags and scatter its contents.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been as mad as I was that day,” Wood said.

For the past few years, the Chamber’s big event has been the Rockingfest on the Square in downtown LaFayette. It started in 2020 and has been held on a Saturday in November ever since. Fortunately, the weather has been good on those Saturdays, and tremendous crowds have turned out to see the world’s largest rocking horse.

The big horse will be back again this year along with large inflatables. There will be lots of good food along Courthouse Square and plenty of arts and crafts vendors with all kinds of neat Christmas gifts for sale.

The Chamber also plays a leading role in the Valleywide Christmas parade. In recent years, it has taken place on a Thursday evening in early December.

Wood well pleased with the response that was received in early February on the part of the area’s 10th and 11th graders. The Chamber worked with the Valley campus of Southern Union State Community College to host some “real life” classes. An estimated 650 students took part and learned the skills they will need to know as adults, such as writing a check and balancing a checkbook.

The chamber will soon host another breakfast program at Gimme  Some Sugar, a business in downtown LaFayette.

“We have some exciting things on the horizon,” Wood said. “Stay tuned. We want 2024 to be a very good year for our local area.”

Just for fun, Wood ended her talk with a trivia quiz about the area covered by the GVACC.