Russell’s Ramblings

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

The Long Road Home

In 1996, Melissa and I bought our first home.  After college, I lived in a number of apartments, leased condos, and rented houses and it was not until I was 37 years old that I actually had the money for the required down payment for a home of our own.  In the mid-2000’s our federal government declared anyone can have the “American Dream” of home ownership –  regardless of whether you can afford the down payment, the mortgage payment, or required maintenance. However, I was taught by my parents you had to be able to meet your financial obligations.  It took some time for me to work and save for that first down payment but it was all worth it.

The message to the American public a few years ago pre-recession was – charge it!  “Don’t have the money or the credit – no problem!  You can still buy that new house, the new automobile, and all the furniture and electronics that your neighbor down the street has recently purchased. Banks – make that loan.    Consumers – put it on your credit card!”

The reality is – “No, we cannot all afford the American Dream.”  However, we all have opportunities with hard work, perseverance, and support to get there.  That’s the story behind Our Towns Habitat for Humanity and Mia Patterson and her family.  Mia, a single mother raising an 8-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son, waited eight years for a home of her own.

Mia Patterson and her daughter Tamya and son TJ

The Lake Norman Chamber partnered with Our Towns Habitat to raise money last year to build a home for Mia and her family.  The project received a significant boost from Wells Fargo Bank that donated $30,000 and guaranteed an additional $20,000 in matching grants.

Lake Norman Chamber members stepped up to the plate with the McIntosh Law Firm, McBryde Website Design, Champion Tire and Wheel, Carolinas HealthCare System, Kimball Morrison, and Park Avenue Properties all making early contributions.

We saw the dollars tally as our own Chamber Ambassadors and the Barry family made individual contributions along with AT&T, Boatsman Gilmore Associates, and Lake Norman Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram getting us closer to our goal of $71,500.

Now the objective is to close the gap and we are just $5,500 short of reaching our goal.  We are calling on our Chamber members and the public at large to help us make the “American Dream” possible.

On Friday, May 4th from 5:30 to 10:00 PM Pelican’s Patio (19930 W. Catawba Ave Cornelius NC) will host a “Partido un Dia Temprano – for those who do not speak Spanish “Party A Day Early!  We will have Heavy Hors d’oeuvres, Music, and a Cash Bar with a $20 donation at the door.

The event is sponsored by the Lake Norman Chamber and Wells Fargo Bank. Please come out and support Habitat for Humanity and our chamber project in a fun and relaxing way.

A couple of months ago, many of you had the chance to meet Mia and her family at a special Our Towns Habitat Business BeforeHours and an earlier Board of Directors Meeting.  Mia’s words of gratitude for the generous outpouring of support could be seen in her eyes as she tightly wrapped her arms around her children knowing they finally had a place of their own to call home.

While I believe in the American Dream, I believe many of the folks in Washington, DC  just don’t get it.  The American Dream is not what we gain by receiving something, it’s what we become as a community and individuals by giving something.

Hope to see you at the Chamber’s Business Build fundraiser and thanks to everyone who has changed a life one family at a time!

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April 27, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lake Norman – Family, Fun & the Fourth!

Lake Norman-morning pier viewThe summer is in full swing at the lake.  July is a month for family vacations, community festivals, and a chance to celebrate the freedoms that generations of Americans have paid dearly for us to enjoy.  Perhaps no month says “fun” more than July with the Big Day at the Lake, Davidson’s Concerts on the Green, and the Fourth of July celebrations that will be taking place.   My family – on my mother’s side – has always celebrated the Fourth of July with Family Reunions taking place at our church in Rock Hill.  As many as 200 family members show up for the annual celebration that has gone on for decades.  There are literally so many cousins, we have to wear name tags to identify who is who!

Recently, one of our Chamber members stopped by for a cup of coffee and to share their excitement that their business was again beginning to take off – a sure indicator to them that the economy was warming back up at the lake.     During our conversation, they shared how much the Lake Norman Chamber seemed to be a big family.  “While other Chambers I belong to certainly promote my business – this one is unique.  I feel we’re all one family,” they stated.  It’s a story I’ve heard countless times but one I can never hear enough.  We are indeed a big family – with all the highs and all the lows.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend the Eagle Scout Ceremony of

The Boss Family - U.S. Citizens

The Boss Family - U.S. Citizens

Phillipe Boss.  Phillipe is the son of Heinz and Erika Boss, owners of The Coffee Boss – themselves, an inspirational story.  Heinz joined the Chamber  when he and his wife moved to Cornelius and opened their store.  Heinz and Erika were one of the lucky few who won a chance to immigrate through a lottery from Switzerland.  Shortly after joining the Chamber, Heinz sponsored a PowerLuncheon at NorthStone Country Club and standing before his fellow Chamber members proudly proclaimed, “We are living our dream!”   I cannot even begin to share how much pride I saw on Heinz and Erika’s face as their son achieved something that less than 5% of Boy Scouts achieve – the prestigious Eagle Scout designation.  

In the same week that I attended that wonderful occasion, a very involved Chamber Ambassador stopped by my office to share some troubling news he had received from his doctor.   He pulled my staff together in my office and shared his condition.  He began like so many others I have heard, “You guys are like family to me…and I need my family right now…”   Even as I write this, tears are filling my eyes and I feel the all too familiar lump rise in my throat.  We all hugged and with steel resolve he stated he would meet this challenge with the same determination he puts into his business every day.    The good news is the early prognosis is very positive and I know he will win that race – the most important he has ever run.

Chamber Ambassadors

Chamber Ambassadors

The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce is many, many things.  For most, it’s a great way to network, build important relationships, and to improve business skills.  To others it is the voice of business at Lake Norman… and to still others, it’s a special family.  We care about our community and we care about each other.  After all, at the lake, business is a family tradition.

June 29, 2009 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , | Leave a comment