Program hopes to ‘educate, inspire’

Published 4:00 pm Monday, January 29, 2007

A group of Natchez residents are honing their skills as leaders through a Natchez Chamber of Commerce program.

Leadership Natchez is part of a national program that helps educate and inspire community leaders, member Wanda Frye said.

“The mission of Leadership Natchez is to identify, educate and inspire leaders to serve our community,” Frye said. “It helps us establish a way to network with other leaders.”

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Every year, the members, each nominated by the chamber of commerce, choose a community service project to complete.

“Last year, the class took on the project of the Sunshine Center,” Frye said. “They not only did volunteer work, but they did fundraisers and raised $10,000 for them.”

This year, the class selected to work with Pleasant Acres Day School, a center for handicapped and special needs young adults, she said.

“We will volunteer and fundraise there, too,” Frye said. “We will probably start in the next two or three weeks.”

This year’s class has about 12 members, fairly large for the program. The members are selected in early fall and are committed to the program through May.

“The first part is educating us to different businesses,” Frye said. “We spend time at their locations and learn what they do and how they affect the community. We also visit nonprofit agencies, from senior citizens to daycare that might benefit from our help.”

Selecting a project takes discussion and consideration, Frye said.

“You start talking about how you feel about each agency, what their needs are and how you might meet those needs,” she said. “That’s a process. It’s not done in just one meeting.”

Frye said she thought the program was well worth the time and effort.

“I’m having a ball, and I think if you ask anyone in the class, they’ll say the same,” she said. “We’re learning and also having fun.”

This year’s Leadership Natchez members also include John Ballard, Kenny Dukes, Gregory Foster, John Lee, Patricia Lozon, Jaki Robinson, Janifer Robinson, Debbie Smith, Tina Kaho, Fred Westermeyer and Marcus White, Frye said.