The featured speaker at Tuesday's 77th annual Lewis County Chamber of Commerce dinner said that positive change in a community often starts in a negative way.
"I can't tell you how many initiatives got started because somebody got mad," said Kent Spellman, the director of the West Virginia Community Development Hub. "It eventually becomes a story of us, then we identify what we want to see in our community."
Spellman said there is no magic secret to community development, borrowing from the Nike slogan of "just do it.
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline
The Lewis County Chamber of Commerce and the Mountain Lakes Convention and Visitors Bureau honor some of the community’s top individuals and business at Tuesday’s annual dinner. From left are Jill Stewart, the CVB’s Taste of the Town honoree; Ray Smith, the Chamber Member of the Year; Sherry Lambert, the President’s Award winner; Shentel’s Anthony Bartolo, representing the Business of the Year; Marian Jarrell and Joe Jarrell, the Lewis Countians of the Year; and Jonelle Swiger and Sue Ann Spiker from the Sunny Point Guest House, the CVB’s Pride of Lewis County winner.
"You just start," he said. "You start now, and you do something."
Groups which initiate change in their communities, Spellman said, start small but often grow to much larger numbers. Doing so creates an inclusiveness and a transparency that is needed to change the public's perceptions and attitudes.
"You have to reach out to the broader community," he said. "If you are a small group and you don't, then you are just a club, and people will grow to resent you. You have to announce what you are doing and keep your doors open."
He said there is a myth that one person starts the networking chain of reaction, saying instead that a network has to be allowed to move in nontraditional ways.
"You build a network by collaborating together," he said. "You have to let the chaos happen because connections flow to value."
He urged the community leaders to study what other cities are successfully doing and to "steal their ideas.
"I guarantee you they stole those ideas, too," Spellman said.
He said West Virginia is starting to draw young people to the state, and those people are beginning to accomplish great things. He said his family contained five children who, while growing up, could not wait to leave the state. All five of them eventually left to what Spellman called "really cool places.
"And guess what," he said. "Four out of the five have come back to West Virginia, and the fifth is trying to figure a way to get back."
The Chamber of Commerce also took time to honor those who make a difference in the community.
Joe and Marian Jarrell were honored as the Lewis Countians of the Year for their charitable work in the community. Ray Smith was honored as the Chamber Member of the Year, and Chamber director Sherry Lambert was named the President's Award winner. Shentel was chosen as the Chamber's Business of the Year.
The Mountain Lakes Convention and Visitors Bureau honored Jill Stewart and the Pink Moon as the "Taste of the Town," and Sunny Point Guest House was picked as the "Pride of Lewis County."