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Chamber ambassadors stay involved after retirement

Cheryl LeBlanc, from left, Rita Holland, Clark Feiser, Barbara Lomasney, and Tommy and Carole Anne Ferrell are some of a number of ambassadors for the Natchez Chamber of Commerce. One of their duties as ambassadors includes greeting guests arriving to Natchez off of the American Queen riverboat. (Photo by Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

 

NATCHEZ — Jerry Moore got involved with the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce when he first moved into the area in the mid-1980s, and he didn’t see why he should stop when he retired.

Now, he’s a Chamber ambassador, and attends new business openings, ribbon cuttings and even riverboat arrivals as an official representative of the group. Sometimes, he and his fellow ambassadors just drop by at local businesses to foster goodwill between businesses, the Chamber and the community.

“We just go to look and see what they do,” Moore said. “It is a social type visit.”

The idea for the ambassadors was born from a retired person who wanted to do something for the community, Ambassador and former Adams County Sheriff Tommy Ferrell said.

The thought was simple: a group of retirees and other volunteers whose previous experience in community life connected them with the local culture and zeitgeist could assist the Chamber at its events.

“As a result, it was decided that a position would be created for the Chamber that would be called ‘ambassador,’” Ferrell said. “That would allow individuals to join the Chamber and not just businesses.”

The main functions of the ambassadors deal with public relations — the aforementioned ribbon cuttings, boat greetings and business visits.

“There is a lot of knowledge to be gained when we visit these businesses,” Ferrell said. “We can spread it to the community and support those businesses, and we can see if they are looking for employees and tell the community they are looking for employees.”

But Ferrell said the ambassadors are also there to let business owners know the community supports their work.

“We have recently started a tour and review of the existing businesses we have in Natchez to let them know that they are being supported and the committee is interested in what they do,” he said.

“They aren’t always dealing with the public outside of their customers, and the ambassadors are here to try to offset that and let them know there is continued support for their business in the community.”

The businesses the group visits don’t necessarily have to be Chamber members, Ferrell said.

But another part of the ambassadors’ work is equally important. They serve as the face of the area to out-of-town visitors to Chamber and non-Chamber functions.

And Ferrell said they likewise seek out newcomers to town to help them become better integrated into the community.

“(The ambassadors) have hundreds of years of knowledge of past history of the community that helps those who are just coming in — what better way to find out about the culture of the community than the Chamber of Commerce?” Ferrell said.

“It also gives the ambassadors a chance to keep their fingers on the pulse of what is going on in the community.”

The work of the group hasn’t gone unnoticed, Chamber President Debbie Hudson said.

“People call me and say, ‘I am doing something, and can some of your ambassadors be there?’” Hudson said.

“They aren’t just somebody who says, ‘Hey, how are you doing,’ they are somebody who is really interested.”

In addition to being a public presence for the Chamber, Hudson said the ambassadors will often staff Chamber events to help things run more smoothly.

“They are a niche group that does it without any applause or seeking any recognition,” she said.

Because they are mostly retired people, Ferrell said the ambassadors have the time to help out around the community that other people may not.

“Once your business is a Chamber member, you are busy with your business, you don’t have a lot of time to give to volunteering — the ambassadors do,” he said.

“The whole thing is about the promotion and the display of the culture of the local community that Natchez-Adams County has to present.”

“It is a lot of fun for people like me and others. We have been involved in community projects our entire careers, and just to retire and quit—that is not acceptable. We want to give to the community how we can.”

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