The year 2020 was the 100th anniversary of Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce. The 2020 Chamber dinner was expected to be a gala.
Instead, the global Covid pandemic canceled the celebration.
This year, Covid did not take Chamber leadership by surprise. After a year of survival in the face of sweeping changes for businesses, Chamber CEO Michelle Rotellini and her team were ready when restrictions kept the 2021 dinner closed.
"CHAMBERFLIX" is the Chamber's triumphant response to a global pandemic that brought the local business community closer together.
A community spotlight video series, "CHAMBERFLIX" will feature member businesses and community award recipient videos organized in a chapter layout much like Netflix, Rotellini reported. The series will chronicle and preserve a historic time in the Chamber's existence.
Guest speaker will be Los Angeles designer and Beckley native Ripley Rader, and the video series will feature award recipients Jeff Miller (Young Business Under 40), Kacy Korczyk (Small Business of the Year), Jana Haga (Volunteer of the Year) and Shawn Ball, owner of L&S Toyota and recipient of the prestigious Service Leader of the Year award.
"We will also feature spotlight videos from business members who prevailed during the pandemic including those that impacted our community's safety and recovery from Covid-19," Rotellini said Monday.
Rader's design house launched Look Good Do Good Masks. For every sequin and chambray mask purchased, Rader donated two masks to at-risk patients and essential workers in need.
The year 2020 was a game changer for local business owners, including Rotellini, who co-owns The Dish Cafe in Daniels. It also forced the Chamber to adjust its mission, at least temporarily.
Rotellini had been CEO for under six months in March 2020, when Covid forced closure of state businesses, including the small, local businesses that make up the majority of Chamber membership. The annual dinner — a gala event that Rotellini had planned in honor of the 100th year and to modernize the event — was postponed, then canceled, due to Covid restrictions.
In an unprecedented year, the Chamber CEO was not only facilitating and overseeing the usual Chamber mission — collaboration among leaders, elected officials and membership to create a strong and positive business environment, developing the local workforce and supporting and promoting growth of the economy — but also helping businesses to keep the doors open.
Beckley area businesses banded together and met the challenge, with the Chamber serving as a support.
"We were able to retain our membership by focusing on providing the resources and services our business community needed to survive a global pandemic," Rotellini said.
The services included TeleTown halls that gave business owners information on services available and took their feedback, virtual shopping events that promoted members who were selling goods online and offering curbside pickup, ribbon cuttings and support for navigating the CARES Act funding.
Rotellini led an effort to encourage residents to support local businesses.
"We always put our businesses first and encouraged our community members to support the local economy so that we circulated our dollars here instead of sending them outside of the region and state," she said. "We understood the importance of the uniqueness our small businesses contributed to the fabric of our community."
The Chamber used the pandemic to advance southern West Virginia, taking advantage of the federal relief funds and the historic number of people working from home by supporting a broadband development study and marketing Beckley to remote workers and launching a beautification project, all while participating in regular community support activities such as litter pickup and usual revitalization efforts.
"CHAMBERFLIX" will allow Chamber members and others a look at an unprecedented year from a unique platform in the Chamber's history.
Tickets for video access are one for $25; three for $65; five for $100; eight for $150.
To purchase tickets, visit https://chamberflix.com/