Russell’s Ramblings

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

Staying Afloat

The following column from Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Bill Russell salutes the patience, perseverance, and promise of our regional business community as we face the pandemic of 2020.

Staying Afloat

Last month, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony opening the newly renovated Lake Norman YMCA. That day, as leaders of the YMCA talked about the hardship and challenges of a capital campaign during the wake of COVID-19, the most devastating physical and economic threat of our generation, each person referenced the hard work and commitment of volunteers, donors and staff.

In my comments to those who gathered to celebrate the accomplishment, I shared how the local YMCA was essentially my second home during the summers when I was a young boy. Even today, I vividly recall the pickup basketball games, practicing my hoops, and the hot summer days out by the pool.  Looking back, it is hard to believe I did that each day, Monday thru Friday, 9 to 5 until my dad picked me up after work.

Today, the debate rages about whether our schools will have virtual or in class learning.  Governor Cooper has ordered a new restrictive stay at home order going into effect this Friday for the hours of 10 pm until 5 am, which will largely impact our hospitality businesses. While I am most concerned about the impact this virus has had on the health of our families and friends, I also am reminded daily about the economic toll it has had on business and commerce. 

Perhaps no market segment has been hit harder than our hospitality, tourism, and fitness industries. When many could have just folded up – I am aware how our Lake Norman businesses stepped up to the plate. I was impressed last May as Vinay Patel from SREE Hospitality talked about how his hotels worked to keep his employees on board in the face of a dramatic downturn in occupancy.  Chef Wes Choplin with Choplin’s Restaurant created meals for kids in need of a hot lunch.  While his business and other local restaurants suffered under the pandemic, he took care of 700 area children each week. Simply spectacular!

Our Lake Norman YMCA had planned a massive capital campaign and major renovation to begin February 1, just weeks before we realized the devastation of this virus. The leadership of the YMCA rolled the dice, took a risk, and plunged head on into the renovations gambling that the facility would be ready for the start of camps this past summer. The generosity of Lake Norman residents and stakeholders was amazing as the YMCA raised $2 million dollars over the course of three years. Even more amazing was the fact they also served 437 campers this summer – all with appropriate COVID 19 guidelines being met from June 15 to August 14th.

While COVID is seeing spikes statewide, relief is just around the corner as vaccines have now been approved and front-line healthcare workers and the elderly may see distribution within the next week as Operation Warp Speed begins implementation. COVID 19 has been an insidious threat to our nation but it has brought out the best in our people – working together to help each other stay afloat during a rough and turbulent storm.  We have stared down a disease which knows no partisanship, religion, or race.

But one, which at the end of the day, will be beaten back.  The storm has not yet passed but the ravaging winds are subsiding and just over the horizon the sun waits to kiss the gentle waters and make calm the new day. I can see that day.  It’s just ahead.

Wishing health and happiness to you all.

Bill Russell

December 9, 2020 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding Light in the Darkness

The following article was written expressly for the May issue of Flame. To read articles written by other Lake Norman Business and Community Leaders visit:  https://bit.ly/2zxxktD

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “In every individual’s life, comes that special moment when he or she will be called upon to do something great, and what a tragedy it would be, if at that moment, they were unprepared for the task.”

G Russell May Flame

Granddaddy Russell working in his garden.

Growing up as a boy, I would spend weekends with my grandparents.  On a Saturday night after supper, Granddaddy Russell and I would sit on the backdoor steps where he would polish his shoes.  He always wanted to look his best for Church the next morning.

I still recall one evening when he asked, “Billy, have you got those shoes shined up for church tomorrow?”  I recall answering that my shoes were still shined from the week before.

Not one to be deterred, Granddaddy examined my shoes, gave me a stern look, and simply handed me the brush and polish.  Granddaddy would sometimes spit on his shoes as he polished them to bring them to a high luster. And I would spit on my shoes as well, because that’s what granddaddy did.

Afterwards we would retire to the dining room table to do our “lessons.”  That’s what he called reading and studying the bible passages we would review the next day in Sunday School.  I would have much rather watched television, but granddaddy said we had to study for church.  “But why do we have to read all that?” I would ask.  “We’ll be reading it again tomorrow.”  He would point out.  “You need to be prepared.”

As I write this column, we are three weeks into a “Stay at Home” order imposed by Mecklenburg Country and the State as we wrestle with the physical and economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. The illness has already claimed thousands of lives here in America and could rage on for weeks to come.

I am not sure anyone in the world foresaw the severity of this outbreak and there is no question our federal and state agencies were unprepared. As grave as this issue may be, I do believe we can emerge from it a much better community and nation.

Few of us will ever face a crisis as dire as this event unfolding before us. While the community, country and world are filled with anxiety and fear, there are many who are emerging as leaders. Not just the healthcare workers and first responders on the front lines, but everyday Americans looking to lend a helping hand. Whether it’s as simple as donating to a cause or delivering food and other essentials to those in need, our community is pulling together!

This temporary pause also gives each of us time to reflect on what is important not only in our business but in our personal lives. Each of us can use this time to reprioritize goals and set new objectives.  A great many of us have discovered new technologies to communicate with clients and friends which we not have previously utilized.

But the biggest opportunity may be the opportunity to be the person you can be after the pandemic and not the person you were going to be.

As a little boy, I could not have imagined that a virus could single handedly stop the American economy and hold our nation hostage. But perhaps this is the moment in time Sir Winston Churchill spoke about. An opportunity when we are called upon to be our absolute best – and a time when we dare not fail in that task.

W.E. “Bill” Russell, CCE, IOM
President & CEO
Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce

May 3, 2020 Posted by | Leadership Lessons, Personal, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment