New Sussex Chamber board and looks toward community growth opportunities

By Terry Harris

On Nov. 3 at a meeting held at the Virginia diner, Jesse Hellyer was elected new President of the Sussex County Chamber of Commerce.

Shortly afterward, the local New York Life agent said, “I know I have tough shoes to fill going forward, and I want to thank outgoing president Ellen Boone for her years of leadership.  Looking forward, I am really excited about our first goal now - to increase membership – to get more people on board with the Chamber.”

“We currently have 32 members,” Hellyer explained, “including Secretary Lynn Babish, Treasurer Steve Jordan, and board members Keith Blowe, Angela McPhaul and Corey Shultz. I feel like they are all enthusiastic about the community, and we are looking to increase membership because the more members we have the more positive things we can do together for the community.”

Refuting the often-held belief that the only purpose of a Chamber of Commerce is to benefit businesses. Hellyer said, “One major purpose of a chamber is to bring businesses together to help promote each other, yes.  But the actual result of fulfilling that purpose is that together we can help the entire community grow. And we want to help bring about positive growth for the community in any way that we possibly can.”

“We have so many good things going on in our county,” he continued, “and the potential for so many more that we want to be able to help with to support each other. In so many businesses people don’t know about what the chamber can do for them – for all of us.  But in truth, by being a member, a person or business can join in at the planning level as we make plans to work together to spread the news of what we need in our area.  We can come up with ways to help those needed things happen. Yes, participation in the chamber offers the opportunity to network with other businesses locally, but through that we all can benefit through different, important programs in the community – like the two events we recently held to help citizens get to know local candidates so that they can make an educated decision about which candidate they want to vote for.”   

Asked how he would respond to the often-heard query, “What’s in it for me?” Hellyer replied, “It’s an opportunity to help others.  Sometimes we need help in this world, and sometimes we give help.  So much of the satisfaction that comes from being part of the chamber is being able to offer that helping hand someone may really need.  And as for direct benefits to members, we have a chamber website and a Facebook page, and we constantly post information about what’s going on in the area. So that’s one obvious benefit - a lot of free advertising. We’re also working toward starting a job posting list, so if someone is looking for work you could just go there to see what’s available in the area.”

With that goal in mind, Hellyer said that the new board has already been making plans toward going out toward the end of the month to meet and greet individuals at local businesses and talk with them  about how they and the chamber can help each other.

He added that regardless of how little time some Have, only the Board of Directors meets monthly, but member attendance is not required.

“We’ll probably have two membership meetings a year,” he related, “plus some Business After Hours events on  a quarterly basis, which offer great after-hours networking opportunities and a chance to discuss ideas for upcoming events and needs in the area.”

“We’re excited about the possibilities and ways we can make improvements for everyone in the area and we look forward to things to come,” he said, “but right now we are determined to find ways to deal with the COVID-19 issue. That’s key to improvement for us all. That and our first goal: increasing membership so that we will have more people, more businesses, more brains and bodies working together to improve this place we call home.  We’d love for anyone who wants to make sure we don’t miss the opportunity to talk with them to call 804-837-6760 and we’ll be glad to set up an appointment to talk with them about What the Chamber can do for you!”