When Kelly Lunsford joined the Metropolis Chamber of Commerce, she was wanting to get involved in the community and, as a business owner, see what the chamber is all about.

“Once I got in, I really dove in deep,” she said, with a laugh.

Five years later, Lunsford is chamber’s new president and ready to help others.

“I feel like it’s a good organization to be involved in because it helps our community and businesses,” said Lunsford, the owner of Kelly’s Mane Image. “The motivation you get from other business owners as being part of the chamber — if I have a question, I can call or contact any member and they would help me out anyway they could. We support each other very well and do a really good job motivating each other, I feel.”

That support and motivation was especially needed in 2020 and is something Lunsford hopes continues in 2021.

“Last year was kind of a struggle for everybody,” she said. “I’m hoping that this year will grow us. I’d like to see us work together as a community and as businesses and help our town prosper. I’m hoping we can reach out to each other and support each other.”

Shopping localJust prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lunsford began noticing more folks starting to shop local. In the months since, “the word of ‘Shop Local’ has really come in this past year,” she said. “I think it was starting to before COVID, but after COVID, they (the community) realized they need to support local; and they’re still supporting local.

“COVID hit us hard — a lot of our businesses had to shut their doors for two months — from March 21 until May 29, we were closed,” she continued. “But I feel, our community really supported us when the doors did open and get us through that. I had many customers tell me they were shopping and supporting local as much as they could — eating out a couple nights a week, going to the stores and shopping. I feel we did have a tremendous amount of people come out last year during COVID to support us, so I’m hoping they’ll carry that on throughout this year.”

During that reopening, the chamber did its part to help businesses around Metropolis, allowing non-members to participate also.

“We were very good last year giving information to non-members,” said Kathy Rushing, who served as the 2020 chamber president. “Kelly’s done a fantastic job on recruiting some old members that hadn’t rejoined in a couple of years and some new members, trying to grow our membership. She’s got a good exec team of officers — first vice president April Reed, second vice president Ericca Arthur and treasurer Maggie Rzechula.”

2021 goalsLunsford said that while many think the chamber is strictly there for businesses, by definition, the organization involves the entire community.

The word “chamber” means “an organization of businesses seeking to further their collective interests while advancing their community, region and state. Business owners volunteer their time for these local society networks and advocate on behalf of the community, striving to insure future prosperity of the community, represent the voice of the community and to grow community interest for visitors, investors and residents to be attracted to the area.”

“Our key is to help businesses grow,” Lunsford said. “We want to help our community get recognized and for more visitors come to visit.”

Fundraisers play a large part in getting that word out.

“We really want to work on our fundraisers to promote and help grow the chamber for our businesses, which will help us give back to the community and our businesses at the end of the year,” Lunsford said. “We’ve got a few new ideas we’re wanting to do.”

But there are some tried-and-true events. The first on this year’s calendar is bowling night. While the teams are full for the annual event, “it’s always fun for people to come out and watch. It’s just a fun night to be together,” Rushing said.

Bowling night is set for 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, at SuperBowl. There will be 50/50 drawings, raffles and door prizes.

“We have first-, second-, third-places, but no one really cares,” Lunsford said. “It’s not a competition really. It’s just relaxing and you’re out there to enjoy and hang out with your friends.”

The pair hopes the Superman Celebration will return this summer. “That’s a big fundraiser for the chamber and tourists and visitors coming in to support the businesses and hotels,” Lunsford said.

A golf fundraiser is set for the fall. Christmas time brings the annual parade and a tree lighting at the Superman statue.

“That’s our newest fundraiser we’re trying to build on,” Lunsford said, noting while the tree from McGinnis Family Christmas Trees was at the statue last year, chamber officials are hoping there can be more of an event this year.

Another part of Lunsford’s goals for the chamber in 2021 is to provide more informational meetings.

“We’ve had some networking classes, tax classes, guest speakers on things like grants, loans, new laws.

One thing I do in attending hair shows is attend business and motivational classes. I think it helps, and I’d like to bring more of those to the chamber and open them to the community,” she said.

Metro DollarsOne program begun by the chamber years ago is Metro Dollars. Similar to gift certificates, Metro Dollars are worth $5 each and used at participating businesses just like cash.

“Whatever amount the customer spends at that business, the chamber reimburses the business for that full amount, that’s a perk of being a chamber member,” Lunsford said. “So if the customer bought an item for $26.30 and paid in 30 Metro Dollars, they’d get the change back and the business would receive $30 reimbursement so they’re not missing out on any of the money at all, the funds are totally reimbursed.”

Metro Dollars are available at the chamber or local banks.

Rushing noted $21,000 were sold in December as Christmas gifts.

“That was enormous,” she said, noting they were purchased by individuals, churches and two large businesses. “It was Christmas gifts for a lot of people. I talked to one of those businesses who said their staff was so appreciative of that. I heard another businesses that had bought a large amount, their staff would rather have that than a Christmas party.”

“And they are using them,” Lunsford noted.

Chamber hoursThe chamber building is scheduled to reopen to the public in a few weeks. Set business hours will be noon to 4 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays only beginning March 1. Lunsford hopes these hours can increase as soon as April with even more hours offered by June.

Meanwhile, chamber meetings for members continue to be held monthly at various locations in Metropolis with 30 minutes set aside for networking before the board of directors meeting.

“Hopefully, we can continue to get more businesses involved and have meetings where they can network and talk to each other and ask questions like how they got their businesses to be so successful,” Lunsford said. “The businesses that are just opening, we try to reach out and make them feel welcome and to know we’re here if they have questions and to help them out anyway we can.

“The majority of the businesses in our town have been here for a long time. I feel the ones that are here have gotten full support from local people to stay open,” she continued “I sent out an email last week and told our members: ‘If you made it through COVID and were able to turn your lights on and open your doors back up afterward, then kudos to you because that says you are an entrepreneur. A pat on the back to everyone for that because you know how to run a business and keep it going.’ I feel like all of our businesses in town do a great job of that.”