By Wayne Sheets
Contributing Business Writer
One of the most valuable assets of many volunteer organizations in Elkins is Gary Chase. Gary came to Elkins a few years ago after retiring from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He immediately went to work as a volunteer with the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management and the Local Emergency Planning Committee sharing the knowledge and expertise he gained while with the DHS.
While with the DHS, Gary designed, developed, delivered and evaluated courses designed for preparing emergency program managers for disasters. Since becoming involved with the LEPC and the OEM, Gary continues to work with local officials in the planning of emergency response plans for local schools and other segments of our community. One of Gary's major concerns as a member of the LEPC is the establishment of and implementation of a safe schools program that brings consistency to all county schools in their planning and executing emergency mitigation procedures.
Gary serves as secretary/treasurer of the Rotary Club of Elkins as well. To many, this alone would be a full-time job. Gary, however, finds time to work on nearly every project undertaken by Rotary. During the summer months, you will see him at just about every chicken barbecue fundraiser that Rotary undertakes. He is a major player in the planning and execution of the club's primary fundraiser in early spring known as "Fun Night." He also serves on the club's board of directors.
He teaches AARP driver safety courses and serves on the board of directors for the local emergency medical service.
He served as Sunday school superintendent at the First Baptist Church of Elkins for three years and continues to maintain the church's Web site, which requires updating every week. For the past five years, he helped register children for the First Baptist Church Vacation Bible School. He built and maintains the computer databases for the Vacation Bible School and the annual Bapt-fest program sponsored by the First Baptist Church. He is active on the organization's several other committees.
Gary is currently working as a volunteer with the H1N1 flu clinics being conducted at the National Guard Armory and other locations around the community.
Gary says of his volunteer work, "It gives me someplace to go. I have a purpose for getting up in the mornings. It keeps my mind active.
"My volunteer work is fulfilling," he said. "If you know something about what you've got passion for, there's probably an organization that can use your help, your services and your time. It's not all about giving your money; it's about giving your time and your knowledge and your experience.
"The one thing I like about retirement is that if there's a day I don't want to get up until 10 in the morning, I can do that, too," he said.
I have had the privilege and pleasure to work with Gary for the past three years in Rotary and with the LEPC. His studied replies to situations that arise at the many meetings we attend are solicited and highly regarded. His answers come only after he has had time to study what the effects of his answer might be for both the short- and long-term. He is an occasional computer mentor for me and I honestly do not believe he has the ability to say no. Any time I have ever asked him to help me solve a problem he has schedule time in his busy schedule to help.
Gary is a tremendous asset to our community. His efforts through the countless hours he spends helping volunteer organizations do a better job enhancing the quality of life of each of us is important to him and to the community. A simple "thank you" is pitifully inadequate for all you do, Gary, but that's about all that can be said. You are appreciated beyond the ability of words to express.
Members of the Downtown Merchants' Association said at their meeting on Dec. 15 that they were extremely pleased with the results of their advertising efforts that encouraged our citizens to shop locally and attend the open house of many merchants held on Dec. 5. Anne Beardsley noted that even without the cooperation of the weather, 400 people participated in the shopping program that involved 32 local businesses, several of which were located outside "downtown," which expanded the shopping area. Many of the merchants are interested in planning a similar event again.
Winners of the cash prizes were Joyce Main, $100; Jim Johnson, $75; Becky Summerfield, $50; Kelly Rayfield, $25; and Dee Woody, $25.
Merchants also indicated that they are doing as well if not better than expected with Christmas shoppers. They indicated, too, that shoppers are unpredictable and they never know when they will be coming by to shop.
The merchants are interested in getting a project under way that would provide benches throughout downtown. The benches would provide shoppers and visitors a place to rest or just to sit and enjoy the city's esthetics. Some suggested that they be donated by individuals or businesses and dedicated to family members or friends.
The U.S. Travel Association projects a modest 2010 increases in leisure, business and international inbound travel that will enable the industry to add nearly 90,000 American jobs. Domestic leisure travel is expected to increase 2 percent in 2010, with a corresponding increase in leisure travel spending of nearly 5 percent. Domestic business travel volume will grow 2.5 percent next year and business travel spending will increase 4 percent.
"Projected growth in leisure travel is an indicator of rising consumer confidence and disposable income," said Dr. Suzanne Cook, senior vice president of research for the U.S. Travel Association. "Following a difficult 2009, businesses have a heightened focus on the value and bottom-line benefits of travel. We expect to see a slight increase in business travel next year based in part on pent-up demand for face-to-face meetings that drive growth and productivity."
The Bureau of Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University has created a new demographics Web site. In April, thousands of census takers will be combing the nation as part of the 2010 census and in preparation West Virginia University has established a Web site to provide access to census information and much more. The Web site provides links to a sample census questionnaire, details from previous censuses - back to 1790 when the every-10-year census began - and even a link to information on how to get a census job. The site's most valuable asset, however, is likely the depth of data on West Virginia. Access to Web site is available by logging on to www.bber.wvu.edu and clicking on demographics.
It seems like only yesterday that it was this time last year. How the years do fly by. I truly hope that 2009 was a good year for everyone, but I know that cannot be so. With the economy being what it is, I know there are many who have struggled through the year holding on to the hope that next year, or even tomorrow for that matter, will bring better times. For those I hope so too; for everyone else, I hope life continues to be good for you.
To everyone, Sue and I wish you and yours a safe, prosperous and very happy new year.