Chamber has long tradition of giving young professionals a great start

The Community Programs Manager position was the first full-time career job I had after college. I remember how excited I was when I got the call from the Chamber president offering me the position. He offered me $17,500 annually. I could quit the other part-time jobs I had and focus on my career and graduate school. That position and the experience that I received changed my life.

Since that time (coming up on 30 years), I have seen the Chamber act as a launch pad for so many young people who wanted to focus on growing our community and serving one of the most vibrant chambers characterized by innovation, bold actions and hard work.

Ironically, the Chamber again has changed my life for the better. Not as a young upstart, but as a seasoned (is that a nice way to say beyond the 40s?) professional.

The past year and half could make a cynic out of the best of us. But what we see every day from the membership, the board and our staff leaves no room for cynicism and just fills me with hope for what I think is a tremendous opportunity for economic growth here.

Last summer we were in a state of lockdown. Our members were in crisis. We tragically lost our board chair, our friend and a business giant in our community. Two of our key staff members moved on to exciting new careers and another key staffer was coping with the heartbreak of a terminally ill spouse who was like a father to our office team.

It was a dark time. And we needed to have people on our team so we could continue to operate at the level that our members deserved. Dark times always give way to opportunities for light.

Reverend Chris Michael of First Christian Church is my minister. He had given sermons over the years about his daughters, and I always loved hearing about these adventurous young women. Martha had been living in Spain post graduation from the University of Georgia. (Yes, they are Bulldogs, but we give them a pass on that). Martha had been in lock down in Spain and let me tell you, it sounded a lot worse than what we had here! When she finally was able to get out, she came to Owensboro where her dad had moved.

I knew we would be unable to do a traditional posting to fill our openings, so we reached out to Martha, did a series of interviews and work samples. And she started in November. In just a few short months —which feels like years at this point — Martha has become part of our work family.

Her focus was primarily on communications, promoting members, working on shop local pushes, keeping our membership updated on the latest regulations and keeping them connected with resources that helped everyone stay open when at all possible. She planned and implemented two vaccine drives where close to 100 people were vaccinated who would not have otherwise had access.

This Wednesday, Martha will have her last day with us. She will move on to graduate school far away from here. And her leaving opens the door for another young professional who is starting her career with us.

But Martha being here, even for a short time, made an impact on our community. And getting to know her and understand her passions and her values again renews my hope that the young people we have in this world are going to make us all better.

Martha, thank you for bringing your talents and light to us during such a tough time. I hope we have helped you grow to love our community as much as we do. And know that Owensboro is always here to welcome you back whenever you are ready.

P.S. Don’t forget to call your dad.

By Candance Castlen Brake, Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer