Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

The Politics of Business

Russell thoughts 1Tip O’Neil, the 55th Speaker of the House and perhaps one of the most influential members of the United States Congress once said, “All politics is local.” He coined the phrase in a 1992 Congressional campaign running against an attorney who was heavily financed with out of state campaign contributions. What O’Neil was referring to was the principles that a politician’s success is directly linked to his or her ability to understand fully and influence the issues of their constituents.

The last few weeks and the week ahead will see a flurry of campaigning for local office and school board by both incumbents wishing to hold onto their seats and newcomers looking for an opportunity to serve. This year’s town boards are quite competitive with perhaps the most ever seeking an opportunity to represent their community.

The last local election could have been seen as a referendum on I-77 as tolls at Lake Norman figured prominently into the debate. There is no question that transportation – whether they are state roads or under local control – are critical in the minds of voters.

The Chamber has aggressively advocated for the cancellation of the Cintra Contract and moving forward with general purpose lanes since we adopted a Resolution calling for that action in June of 2015.

At a recent trip to my dentist, he pointed out I-77 has significantly impacted his business as they almost daily have to shuffle appointments from patients who are caught in traffic. Those of course are  patients who choose to reschedule!Reagan

This election cycle, voters in Mecklenburg County will decide the fate of a $922 million Charlotte Mecklenburg School Bond. As I write this article, your Chamber Board has not taken a position on the Bonds and may not.

As business leaders, we understand that education – public and private – is the foundation of our economic and business development. Our schools provide our workforce and the future generation which will inherit our communities tomorrow.

One of my favorite politicians of all time was Ronald Reagan. I met Reagan when I was National President of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees).

It is well documented that Speaker O’Neil and President Reagan were constantly at odds. O’Neil said Reagan was the most ignorant man who ever occupied the White House and “a cheerleader for selfishness.” In his memoirs, the Speaker was asked about the attacks on the President and how the two seemed to remain friends. O’Neil commented, “Before 6:00 pm it’s all politics.”

Reagan himself once quipped, “If you’re afraid of the future, then get out of the way, stand aside. The people of this country are ready to move again.”

Our economy seems to be doing quite well and I believe our citizens are ready to get moving again. The businesses of Lake Norman have looked to the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce for 30 years to help create jobs and provide an environment that encourages entrepreneurship and business development.

The bottom line is we as business, community, and elected leaders cannot go back and change any mistakes that were made yesterday but we can create a brand new beginning. A change that begins with us, one person and one community at a time. It is the charge we have from our past and the responsibility we owe to the future.

Bill Russell

This column was written originally for the October Lake Norman Chamber Splash Newsletter and appeared as a Guest Column in the October 4th issue issue of the Lake Norman Citizen Newspaper (Page 32), Photo taken at the 72nd Annual Meeting of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) Portland Oregon, June 1992.

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October 30, 2017 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), Politics, Transportation & Road Improvement, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Barium Springs – A promise of hope

The article below appears in the August issue of Cornelius Life Magazine.

Isn’t it amazing in this fast paced world of smart phones, laptops, Facebook, and texting, it’s the simplest of things that teach us what’s really important in life. I was reminded of that by a teenager whose words made my heart tremble and brought tears to my eyes.

As the president of the chamber, I am keenly aware that while we are blessed to live in the Lake Norman region, there are still many in our community that need a helping hand. The generosity of our residents is nothing short of spectacular as we give freely of our time, talents and financial resources from Habitat Homes for single parents to Big Day at the Lake.

Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins with Bill Russell at Barium Springs Luncheon

Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins with Bill Russell at Barium Springs Luncheon

 

A few weeks ago, I attended a fundraiser for Barium Springs at The Cove Church in Mooresville.  Surrounded by approximately 400 other community and business leaders, we networked and discussed the issues of the day ranging from taxation to tolls waiting on the program to begin.  

Then the lights dimmed and I heard those words, those chilling words which seared into my soul.  I looked into the eyes which stared back into mine and the face of innocence weathered by years of abuse and neglect.  I listened as Barium Springs volunteers and school officials shared their own particular stories. Barium Springs provides an array of services for children, families and individuals throughout our state.  Their main objectives are to provide a safe home through residential homes and foster care; to heal the hurt for children who are troubled, abused or neglected; and to encourage a healthy start through educational and prevention programs.

I grew up with two parents who loved their children.  Mom and dad were both very active in the Rock Hill (SC) community serving in civic organizations like the Jaycees, Kiwanis, United Way, Red Cross and our church.  Dad worked with other kids as a commissioner of Little League Baseball and ironically daddy led an effort to create a Boys Home for kids who found themselves in need of mentoring and guidance.

To this day, when I call my mom she always ends the conversation telling me “I love you.”  And her words still warmly embrace me just as they did in my youth when she tucked me into bed each night.  Those words come harder for dad.  It’s his actions which speak louder than the words as we enjoy a Saturday afternoon football game together or a horseback ride through the woods on our family farm.

I listened that May day as teenagers told their stories of neglect.  Parents who sometimes never got out of bed, their minds and bodies wracked by years of substance abuse, leaving a trail of victims in their wake – among them their children.  Kids that before Barium Springs, never had a bed to sleep in or a pillow to rest their head. 

As I watched a short video, a young man appeared on the screen.  He spoke of the years of abuse at the hands of his father.  But it was the eyes which touched my heart. The pain and anguish that no child should ever have to endure.  Barium Springs has turned his life around and today he is a good student, involved in athletics, with a chance for a scholarship and a bright hope for the future.

 

Cody

Cody

Then he said it, those words which still bring tears to my eyes.  The first time they escaped his lips, I felt my eyes well up and I hoped those at my table wouldn’t see me weep.   At that moment in time, he was not speaking to a camera or the other 400 people in the room.  He was speaking to me when he said, “I want to grow up and be the daddy my father wasn’t.”

No one can undo the hurt or the scars they leave.  Memories may linger, but with a new day comes a promise of hope. The volunteers and contributors to Barium Springs provide that hope through support and unconditional love…and perhaps the chance to be a parent that their mother or father wasn’t.  

ill Russell

Bill Russell is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.  For information about Barium Springs, to set up a tour of their campus, or make a contribution call 704-872-4157 or visit  www.bariumsprings.org.

July 29, 2013 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), Personal, Social Causes | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Our American Right

One of our chamber members and local business leaders has recently taken another step into the international business arena. Ralph Daetwyler, President of Max Daetwyler Corporation in Huntersville, was recently honored when he was named the Honorary Consul to Estonia for North Carolina. In this distinguished role, Ralph will assist Estonians in North Carolina as well as abroad in business and investment related recommendations and general informative work on topics such as society, education and culture in Estonia.

I had the honor of attending Ralph’s appointment for this role at an event at his home in Cornelius along with govt officials from Estonia, Switzerland and Huntersville. Ralph proudly told us all, “It is my privilege to be named honorary consul to Estonia. Daetwyler USA provides manufacturing expertise on various projects to our Estonian subsidiary, and this working relationship has given us a very good understanding of their culture. This insight will enable us to effectively assist any Estonian company that is exploring North Carolina as a potential base for their U.S. operations.”

While there I had the opportunity to chat with Marina Kaljurand, Ambassador of Estonia, Sten Schwede, consul general of Estonia and Heinz Roth, honorary consul of Switzerland, as well as Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain and board members Sarah McAulay and Melinda Bales. That evening reminded me about an experience I had in 1991 with the Estonia Junior Chamber that I shared with the Ambassador.

That year, I served as National Vice President of the US Junior Chamber and attended the Junior Chamber International (JCI) World Congress in Helsinki, Finland.  At that event, Junior Chamber Estonia was recognized as a fully affiliated national organization in JCI.  I will never forget watching Erlend Tammenurm from Rapla, Estonia as he took his place on stage in front of more than 4,000 International delegates waving his country’s flag with tears in his eyes.  At first I was taken back that this professional and reserved man would openly show such emotion on the occasion.

Estonia Ambassador Kaljurand and Bill Russell

Then I was reminded it had only been a few years since Estonia was a country of the Soviet Union and public assemblies and the right to freely associate would have not just been discouraged – many would have been imprisoned.

As President of the United States Junior Chamber (Jaycees) and later as an International officer, I had the chance to visit with delegations from throughout the world. However, the single most powerful occasion was seeing the impact that moment had on Erlend.

This month, on November 6th, Americans will have the chance to exercise a right we often take for granted – the right to vote for our elected leadership.  As Americans, we have the freedom to choose who will represent us in Washington, Raleigh, and right here at home in Mecklenburg County. We should not forget that throughout this world many people do not have that right – their voice cannot be heard and the will of the majority does not prevail.

Each of us has that right because generations of Americans have paid dearly though their sacrifice – young men and women who stand watch and in some cases pay with their lives, so that we may vote on Election Day.

It was a privilege meeting the Ambassador of Estonia and honoring Ralph in his new role. I regret though that one detail, small as it may have been, was omitted when I shared with Ambassador Kaljurand my story.  I neglected to tell her as I watched Erlend Tammenurm wave his country’s flag – his smile as big as the stage he was on – with the tears which streamed down his cheeks …  maybe it was the moment, I’ll never know… but I cried too.

October 30, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Were!

Withrop Univeristy, Rock Hill, SC

I cannot think about the holidays without reminiscing of the Christmas Eve’s spent at my grandparents.  The bountiful meals my grandmothers prepared, the Church pageants, and yes…the multitude of gifts under the trees.  And while I will cherish those times, I often think back to an event which touched my heart and perhaps set in motion actions which led to my career with the Chamber today.

It was the Christmas of 1984 and I was Chairman of the Rock Hill Jaycees Christmas Charities project.  We were given a list of 30 or so families a little down on their luck that needed a helping hand.  This wasn’t your Bing Crosby White Christmas.  Rather it was a cold, rainy southern winter evening where you’d much rather be indoors watching television rather than delivering food and toys in the rain.  The family that I was given was several miles out of town.  A fellow Rock Hill Jaycee named Joe Stinson volunteered to team up with me and we drove for what seemed forever in rural Rock Hill. We traveled down muddy slick roads until at last we ventured on an old house sitting alone in the dark dreary night.

Stepping up on the creaking porch, I pulled back the screen door and knocked on the window pane of the door as Joe began unloading the groceries and toys.  A woman came to the door appearing a little puzzled as to her late night visitors.  I explained we were from the Jaycees and were there to help.  Tears slid down her cheek as she explained she was sure no one was coming and she had told the kids there wasn’t going to be a Christmas this year.  The lady said her husband had deserted them and it was just her and the children now.

She wiped back the tears as she talked proudly of her little boys as they could be heard in the background tearing through the house.  Eventually, one of the little tikes ran up and threw his arms tightly around his mother’s waist.  “Mama, mama, who is that?” he asked looking up at Joe and I.  “That’s Santa Clause,” she replied with a bright smile as she rubbed her hand across his head.  The lady thanked and hugged us as we made our way to the door. “God bless you both and Merry Christmas,” she said as she closed it gently behind us.

Joe and I drove back to Rock Hill.  I turned the radio off and we listened to the sounds of the wipers as they scraped along the windshield.  As we neared the city, Joe turned to me and said, “Little brother, we really were…”  Joe’s voice choked off as he looked the other way staring back out the passenger window.  Joe didn’t need to finish his sentence.  We were, that night – we really were.

Rock Hill Jaycees at an early 1990's Christmas Charities project

I will always remember the family gatherings, the wide eyed wonder when I surveyed our den after Santa arrived, and for the reason we all celebrate this most holy time in the first place.  And I will also remember the night we brought an evening of happiness to a mother and her children.  A mother who thought no one remembered – no one cared.  A night when tears were wiped away, hope and promise filled the air, and for a moment in time, we really were.

Merry Christmas and God Bless

December 24, 2010 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , , | 1 Comment

Put me in Coach

USC Coach Steve Spurrier with Bill Russell

The word “coach” means different things to different people.  To the athlete, it is the person who pushes them to perform at their very best.  The coach motivates and inspires the athlete to operate at peak performance, often in the framework of a team, but on occasion, in an individual effort.  These special advisors are no different than the business coach who works with individuals to discover untapped talents, to achieve goals and objectives, once thought unobtainable without their counsel. 

People at the top of their game, the best in their profession, still need a coach.  Some might be surprised that the greatest golfer in our lifetime, Tiger Woods, still has a coach that pushes him to be the very best. No one reaches the top on their own – often you need a successful network and perhaps many different mentors and coaches for you to be the very best you can be.

Bill Walton

Recently, I was in Washington, D.C. attending a legislative conference with the U.S. Chamber and meeting with our federal delegation.  Past Lake Norman Chamber Chairman John Hettwer and I saw a poster that indicated that former NBA player Bill Walton was speaking on Technology and Innovation, and we decided to attend.  Walton met John and I at the door and the event organizer took note of the name tag I was wearing when he said, “It’s not every day we have Bill Walton and Bill Russell in the same room.”  I’ve become accustomed to the kidding I get bearing that famous name.  I often retort back, “I’m sure the former Boston Celtic ‘Bill Russell’ gets his fair share of being mixed up with the nationally renowned chamber executive.”  Well, perhaps not, but if the NBA Russell is a legend, I’m at least a legend in my own mind.

Walton had some great advice that he shared with us that afternoon. Much of it was lessons taught by his mentor and UCLA Bruin coach, the legendary John Wooden. Walton reminded each of us, “It’s the skill, timing and position not the size and strength that counts.”  He also shared, “it’s not how high you jump – but when” and perhaps one of his better gems “never mistake activity for achievement.”  

Coach Ray Parlier with incoming S.C. State Jaycee President Bill Russell

As I listened to the words of Bill Walton, I could not help but think of the mentors that have served me so well over my career.  I am fortunate to have had a business coach, a political coach, and a spiritual coach.  However, one that perhaps made the most impact on the field I have chosen is Coach Ray Parlier.  Ray was the Athletic Director of Furman University and a Past State President of the South Carolina Jaycees.  Parlier was a former football trainer that rose through the ranks to become a driving force in Furman’s national championship run in the late 1980’s.

“Coach” would have me placing little sticky notes on the refrigerator and the bedroom and bathroom mirrors with goals he expected us to obtain – and obtain them we did.  Those reminders, which I once thought unobtainable, became my focus.  Ray was my first coach who pushed me past self-imposed barriers to reach my potential.  Perhaps his greatest advice in leading a non-profit, whether a chamber of commerce or a civic organization, was simply to “love your people.”  Before you can lead them, you have to show them that you care.

Political Advisor Charlie Madsen

My life has been full of mentors – Charlie, Chip, Ray, Joni, Dad and the list goes on and on. I can think of no greater reward for anyone than having made a difference in someone else’s life… helping them chip away the stone to unveil the beautiful statue within. Bill Walton closed that afternoon with a line that Wooden impressed on the young men that he led to their countless national championships, “Make each day your masterpiece.”  The Lake Norman region is our canvas, painted each day by the countless numbers who call this community home. Painted not by a single artist but all those whose dreams are bigger than their visions, and their actions – which are louder than their words.

October 13, 2010 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The day daddy died … or didn’t

Bill Russell Sr. & Jr. - 2010 Father's Day

On a Saturday morning, August 9, 1969, WRHI, the leading radio station in Rock Hill, led breaking news that a tragic boating accident had occurred during the late evening hours the night before on Lake Wylie.  Several prominent business and community leaders had been killed and among the missing was Bill Russell, past president of the Rock Hill Jaycees – my father.  The tragedy occurred following a regional meeting of the South Carolina Jaycees.  At the conclusion of the meeting, several officers from the Clover, Gaffney, and Rock Hill Jaycee Chapters (seven Jaycees in all) decided to enjoy a late night boat cruise.

A boat piloted by a Clover Jaycee was struck head on by a cabin cruiser.  The coroner’s report later determined it to be an accident. While no one was injured in the larger vessel, two young men from Gaffney, Thomas Baines and Michael Campbell, both 26, were killed along with the President of the Rock Hill Jaycees C. Well Hayes. Wells was just 28 years old. John Every, another Rock Hill Jaycee, who would later be elected South Carolina Jaycee State President, was severely injured and never fully recovered from the incident.

When members of the Clover and Rock Hill Rescue Squad arrived on the scene, the Jaycees involved were either badly injured or missing leaving officials to speculate who might have been on the boat. My dad was Rock Hill’s chapter representative to the Clover Jaycees having helped establish the organization and it was assumed he too was on the boat and missing. Ironically, it may have been his commitment with civic service that he was not. Dad was also a Commissioner on the Rock Hill Pony League sponsored by the City of Rock Hill Parks & Recreation.  The Championship playoffs were scheduled for that weekend.  Both the Jaycee and baseball events were scheduled for a Friday night. Dad was required to be at the Pony league game in case a protest arose and a decision would have to be made at the time of protest.  That requirement may well have saved his life.  Instead of attending the Jaycee meeting, he attended the Pony League ballgame with his nine-year old son “Billy”.

My mom received a phone call early that Saturday morning from Joyce Tucker, a close friend, whose husband Charles was both a firefighter and volunteer rescue squad member. Tucker was among the first to arrive at the scene and was told Bill Russell was thought to be among the young men who were missing.  One can only wonder now the phone calls that were made that morning before the advent of cell phones and answering machines.

Upon hearing the news, my parents immediately headed out to the lake to find out first hand what had happened to their friends while at the same time, put to rest any concerns as to the safety of my father. Mom and dad proceeded to the public boat landing where the rescue and recovery was being conducted.  Upon arrival, the first person they encountered was Mary Colvin, the director of the Rock Hill Red Cross.  At the time dad was also president of the Red Cross chapter. Dad said Mary on seeing him, ran up and hugged his neck telling dad the squad was in the process of dragging the river for him.

John Every Memorial Award - Bill Russell, Doug Griffin & Ray Parlier

Twenty one years later, I was elected the first president of the Rock Hill Jaycees whose father had also served in that capacity.  We had a great year and it culminated with the Rock Hill Junior Chamber being recognized as the #1 Jaycee Chapter in the state.  We were presented a #1 Trophy and a plaque citing our outstanding achievement.  While I was thrilled with that recognition, my hands literally shook when I was presented the C. Wells Hayes Memorial Award as president of the Best Jaycee Chapter in the District.

A couple of years later, I was presented with the John Every Memorial Award for my service to the South Carolina Junior Chamber of Commerce.  I still remember the tears which streamed down my cheeks accepting the award. For all the reasons many in the crowd may have thought I was shedding a tear, I could not help think how fortunate I was, not for what I was receiving but for something I had … and never lost.

The Jaycee organization taught me to do what you love, love what you do, and deliver more than you promise.  I have tried to live out that philosophy in my role with that organization, the chambers of commerce I have served, and the many organizations I have chaired and been a part of as a Board or involved member.

Outgoing Junior Chamber President presenting dad the highest award from the U.S. Jaycees

I’ve come to realize three things as I approach each day. Having lost two close friends of mine recently, Scott Hinkle and Mike Shipley, both young men with their lives in front of them, I can’t help but think how precious and short life really is.  There is no promissory note.  No guarantees of what we have to look forward to in this life.  Simply, we have today and that is God’s gift to us. What we make of it is our gift back to God.

The second thing is God must really have a sense of humor. That’s why he made me a Gamecock fan. I’m convinced God made me a Gamecock to keep my humble as I go through this journey of life.

And the last thing. Well, it’s the thing that keeps the smile on my face. Knowing all the northerners will be shocked when they get to Heaven and God says, “Ya’ll come on in.” She’s got a southern accent you know.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

June 20, 2010 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , , , | Leave a comment

You are the Message

What exactly does “You are the message mean?”  Actually how we say something is just as important as the words we speak.  The hand gestures we use, the tone and pitch of the words, our eyes, smile, humor, all say volumes whether spoken or not. Professor Albert Mehrabian of UCLA determined that listeners were influenced by non-verbal facial expressions and body language 55% of the time.  Our voice – its pitch, tone, and variation accounted for 38% with the words we actually speak making up the remaining 7%. We’ve all judged speakers on whether they sounded hollow or sincere.  Did the speech come from the heart or did it sound contrived or rehearsed?  The words themselves are meaningless unless your audience believes you own them.

In 1991, I was the president of the South Carolina Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), the largest young people’s civic organization in the state.  It was a one year elected position and my responsibility was to get our members motivated to exceed the goals and objectives they set for the year. While our Jaycee Chapters were in the business of raising money for a variety of charitable causes from MDA to St. Jude’s, perhaps no cause was more dear than our own state philanthropy – Jaycee Camp Hope for kids with mental disabilities.

Gene Martin accepting a Presidential Award of Honor

We had four state meetings during the year – four opportunities to fire up the troops.  I remember sitting down with one of my political advisors at the last meeting of the year.  He asked if I knew what I would say to them as they prepared to finish out the year as strong as possible. I handed him a speech about volunteerism, patriotism, and assisting the families of soldiers who were fighting in the Gulf War.  My advisor, Gene Martin, read the speech, handed it back, and told me, “Bill, that’s a great speech.  Really good stuff.  But is that what you really want to say to them?”  I admitted sheepishly, “No.  I want to tell them to go get more young people involved.  Recruit more people into the organization.  Membership is people and we’re in the people business.  The more people you have, the more money you can raise.”  Gene looked at me, removed his glasses, and said in his slow South Carolina accent, “Then go tell ‘em.  You were elected to lead.  They’ll follow you.  Just go tell ‘em what they need to do.  Bill, if you don’t do it, exactly who do you think will.”

1990 - 1991 South Carolina Jaycees - The Best of the Best

To this day I remember walking to the podium 20 minutes later.  My hands were trembling thinking about what I was fixing to say.  No notes  – no prepared remarks.  Just a short talk from the heart why we needed to get more people involved.  “We were born for this moment, the fate of our communities lie in our hands.” In 1991, the South Carolina Jaycees started the year with 4,294 members and ended with 5,008 for a net growth of +714.  Most of the new members joining in the last couple of months of that Jaycee year.  We raised nearly $75,000 for our state philanthropy Jaycee Camp Hope, and $20,000 for a new Lupus Awareness program. In addition, we raised more than $200,000 in goods and services for the victims of the Ohio Floods, who the year before had been so generous with our communities during Hurricane Hugo.  The South Carolina Jaycees were also recognized as one of the Top Five Jaycee States in America that year.

Twenty years later, I still give talks to civic groups and Chamber members urging them to be their very best. Rarely do I attempt to use prepared remarks.  I learned long ago, the best speeches come from the herart.  If you show folks how much you care, they’ll show you what they can do.  My advisor, my friend Gene Martin left me with a very valuable lesson, “Our words speak boldly of our intentions, but our actions speak louder than the words and while the words are important – we are the real message.”

June 18, 2010 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , , | 1 Comment

Community Heroes – The Best of the Best

Bill Russell presenting Arlene Arciero Lake Norman Kiwanian of the Year in 2006

There is a marble paper weight that sits on my desk that says, “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”   Throughout my professional and civic career, I have been on both ends of the awards – receiving them and giving them.  As state president and later national president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), I have literally given away hundreds of awards.  It would not surprise me if the actual number eclipsed more than a thousand.
    

On many occasions, as the recipients were hugging me with tears of joy streaming down their cheek, they said between happy gasps that they never did it for the award.  Lest you think these were just overjoyed females who let their emotions get the best of them, quite a few were grown men bursting with pride.    I remember the feelings I had when the first Advisors Award was given out to a brother in my fraternity (Pi Kappa Phi at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC).  It was a small award, no bigger than my hand really.  There was no fancy logo, just an inscription Advisors Award presented to Bill Russell from our chapter advisor Russ Palmer.   The award came as a complete shock to me as it probably did to most of the other brothers.  Russ rarely shared any accolades on the brothers.  He preferred to be thought of as a thick skinned, tough guy.  He was.  Perhaps that’s why this award meant so much.

It’s great to be recognized among your peers.  Few people who deserve the recognition ever do what they do for the awards.  They do it, not because of what they get by doing it, but the feeling they receive because they did.   This month, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce will recognize several special individuals – our Cashion Business Person of the Year, the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award, the Cherry Community Service Award as well as our Board Member and Ambassadors of the Year.  These awards honor the Best of the Best in our region.  It will be our chance to recognize people who excel at what they do.  A chance to reward someone for giving more than they ever get back.  

My chapter advisor from the fraternity passed on many years ago as have some of my fraternity brothers.  The plain little plaque that hangs in my den looks out of place hanging with others from my active civic career.  Small as it may be, it made a big impression on me.  We don’t do it for the awards but its awfully nice when our friends and associates pat you on the back –  recognizing you as the best of the best in what you do.

January 15, 2010 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Fraternity, Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Greatest Gifts

Christmas has always been a special time for me.  When I hear a Christmas tune on the radio, whether it’s Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole, I cannot help but recall how each Christmas we would gather at my grandparent’s homes in Rock Hill.  My grandmother Russell would have worked all week in preparing pastries and other baked goodies. The air was filled with the scent of her hot buttered biscuits and French apple pie.  Her Christmas albums played in the background as we all gathered in the den. The grandchildren, spying the pile of gifts under the tree, guessed what might be in theirs.  After the festivities, we would pack up and head over to my Grandmother Feemster’s where we would start all over again.  You always saved room because it was another large helping of turkey with all the fixings and likely a fresh baked pound cake with her special icing!

Christmas is also special because of the occasions I had to work with local civic groups to bring joy and happiness to someone less fortunate.  On one such occasion, I was in Sumter, South Carolina assisting the Sumter Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce) and a good friend named Doug Griffin in a project called the Christmas Shopping Tour.

A couple of dozen kids from single parent and out-of-work families were taken on a shopping tour and given $50 to buy anything they wanted. Each of us took a child and paid for their purchase.  In 1990, this token amount went a long way to brighten a Christmas for a needy child.  After the tour, Doug gave several of us a ride back to his house during which time we shared our experiences of the day.

However,  the story Doug shared will always remain with me.  He gave his little boy the $50 and off he went tearing through the local Target store.  In just a few minutes he appeared with a single pair of shoes which accounted for his $50.  Doug asked if this was really what he wanted instead of a toy or game?  Wouldn’t he prefer a football or something to play with?  Indeed, there had been no mistake –  this was what he wanted. Doug then examined the shoes carefully and noted not only were they much too big for the child, but they were women’s shoes.  When Doug inquired about this, the child looked up and said, “They’re for mama.  She needs some shoes and can’t afford to buy them for herself.”

The car was awfully quiet as all of us thought about what that child had done. After a few moments of silence, we asked what happened next?   Doug related that he asked the cashier to wrap the shoes up in some decorative wrapping paper and went back in the store where he asked the child to purchase something for himself.  While the child appreciated Doug’s generosity,  he seemed to beam with joy that he had done something special for his
mama.

This Christmas season, when many will be gathered with family and friends, others will not only go to bed without exchanging gifts, but will go to bed hungry.  Many of our area civic clubs are working hard this Christmas season to bring joy to those who need a helping hand.  Our Kiwanis club helped with Christmas in Davidson and delivered turkey dinners just a few weeks ago to the needy.  The Optimist and Lions have their Christmas tree lot and the Rotary has had their Christmas Shopping Tour.  Other civic clubs are still making plans to lend a helping hand and the Salvation Army’s bell will ring throughout the day and night at many high profile shopping centers. 

Merry Christmas from Bill, Abbie, Gipper, & Murray

Please consider making a generous contribution to these and other clubs who work so hard in our community.  The funds these clubs raise will go a long way to help those who need it most.

Merry Christmas!

December 19, 2009 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Once in a lifetime… if you’re lucky

 

Bobby Hyman - The Original Traveling Animal

Bobby Hyman - The Original Traveling Animal

Over a decade ago, I had the opportunity to listen and observe a young man give an acceptance speech after he was recognized by the Jaycees for a lifetime’s work.  I choose my words deliberately when I say this young man had already completed a life’s work because shortly after his motivating speech to his audience, he passed away. 

 

 

He was in his late forties at the time when his heart just gave out.  Many of us who were close to him wondered how the Lord could call someone home who still had so much more to give.  While I may never fully realize the answer to that question, I will never forget the words that still resonate with me today.  Once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky,” he said with a pause.  “God gives you the chance to change the face of your community and leave it a better place than it was when you found it.”

 

Recently I was asked by a new Chamber member what I did.  I told them I was the President of the Chamber.  The member looked at me quizzingly, and asked again, “Yea, I know.   But what do you do as a profession?”  Actually, the member did not know I was employed by the Chamber.  He assumed I was a volunteer.  I smiled at him, knowing what he meant, and replied, “I’m a builder.”  I walked away, perhaps leaving him convinced I was in construction.

 

However I left that conversation, I felt in my heart I had answered him fully.  I’m a really lucky guy.  Each day I go into work knowing full well I help build something.  I help build a better organization.  I help build a better economy for our businesses.  I help build a better community.  The bottom line is each day I have the opportunity to leave my region better than I found it.

 

It’s inspiring each day to see individuals in the community working together to solve community challenges.  Just today I had the opportunity to feel the energy of citizens preparing to shape the vision for their downtown in Huntersville.    Every day our Chamber members volunteer their time and talent to make our region a great place to do business and a wonderful community to live for our residents.  Our civic clubs, churches, and non-profits are working together to improve the lives of those who need a helping hand.  animals

 

As long as I live I will remember the young man, fighting back tears of joy, as he stood before his peers.  In a short time he had touched a lot of hearts and left his community better than he found it.  It’s an opportunity the Good Lord gives each of us.  Once in a lifetime…if you’re lucky.

March 13, 2009 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , | Leave a comment