It is with great sorrow that I step down as the administrator of the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce Facebook Page. I can no longer support an organization which, under the leadership of the current president, overrides the bylaws, makes potential new business members feel uncomfortable during a meeting and changes rules on a whim.
Hours of Free Labor from Several Contributors
Tulare County Historical Society, Kiwanis, Marcy Miller and I donated all the funds necessary to create and print a professional Junior Docent Guide based on several National Park Junior Ranger Guides. Three teachers, Courtney Hengst, Kelly Wade and Becky Davis donated back the stipend offered to the teachers who wrote the activities. One teacher, Kristina Ringo was paid out of the grant money. I donated my time as the editor and grant writer. We hired a professional graphic designer, Lauri Polly, who was paid by Kiwanis of Woodlake since the grant did not cover that expense and Ms. Polly spent many hours above what we paid her. We printed 1,000 copies and bought 1,000 Docent Guide badge stickers at no cost to the museum to promote the museum to school districts and teachers in the area and to give to students who take field trips to the museum.
Thank You Presentation Not Supported With Handouts
This Saturday Becky Davis, Kristina Ringo, and I made a presentation on behalf of the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce (WVCC) to the Tulare County Historical Society (TCHS) to thank them for their $1,500 donation to this project. I had requested 20 books as a thank you to the historical society, 20 for Kiwanis of Woodlake, which also donated a large sum of money, and 20 for myself to have available to promote the Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum. President Rudy Garcia requested that I send an email to him on May 7 to read at the May 8 board meeting. He did not open that email and did not present my request.
I tried to collect the books and he admitted that he had not opened the email and forgot to present the request. He said he would ask the officers and let me know on Thursday, May 17 if I could have booklets to take to the Saturday, May 19th meeting.
He emailed me, “Marsha, any offers, request or business that involves the chamber must be presented at the chamber meetings. At this time we will provide a dozen docent guides for the Tulare County Historical Society, more than that please attend the next chamber meeting. You can pick them up tomorrow at my work.”
Contributor Never Received a Copy
I gave one of the twelve Junior Docent Guides to Becky Davis, who had never received a guide. The remaining 11 guides we distributed among the 17 TCHS members attending the meeting. The Society told us how proud they were of the document. I told them I would get them additional copies.
No Thank You Letters to Contributors or Funding Agents
The project took a year to complete, and many donated hours writing, proofreading, fact-checking and piloting the activities with students. As far as I know, none of us ever received a thank you letter for the time and the service from the Chamber of Commerce.
In fact, the Board denied us copies of the guides to promote the museum in school districts around the county. I distributed 63 copies to teachers in Woodlake before I turned the guides over to the Chamber of Commerce. Woodlake schools might not have received them otherwise.
At the meeting I brought the new guides to the Chamber Board, they discussed how to preserve the 1,000 free copies. They did not want to use the guide to promote the museum. That month marked the end of my term. I resigned from the Board but agreed to continue to manage the Facebook Page. I recruited new members in advance of the upcoming election to bring new blood to the board, which is supposed to turn over five members and two officers, half the board, every year, one of which was my position.
Business Members Uncomfortable at Chamber Meeting
I nominated one of the renewing members as President by email to all the Board members. I did not attend the meeting and I was told that Rudy did not present that nomination. According to one member who attended the meeting, Rudy Garcia did present a written nomination for himself as President. After he read the nomination, one member stated that he reinstated himself as President. The members I nominated reported that they felt very uncomfortable at the meeting and would not return to the Chamber under current leadership.
City Manager, Ramon Lara told me later that the City of Woodlake does not recognize the current Chamber of Commerce. The City created an Economic Development Board to manage some of the duties of a Chamber of Commerce. In addition, the some of the city staff formed a non-profit group, Homegrown, to raise funds and do the work. Other city officials and staff members suggested that the businesses of Woodlake should hold the current Chamber accountable, to follow bylaws and provide services. In 2018, no events have occurred and as far as I know, none are planned.
Although I have enjoyed the time working as a Chamber member and feel the Chamber has made some important contributions under the current leadership, I will no longer manage their Facebook Page. I will route pertinent community information through other pages I manage including Kiwanis of Woodlake, the Woodlake High School Foundation, Woodlake Botanical Gardens, and other pages and groups that I manage or in which I participate.
For these reasons, like the City of Woodlake, with great sadness, I will no longer support the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce under the current leadership.