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At the end of the day, we all want to belong.
When I came to Decatur from Natchez, Miss., in 1991 to become president of this Chamber, my wife and I quickly became connected to the community. I met elected officials with whom I’d be working with on public policy issues. I connected with business owners and entrepreneurs who were innovative in their craft and creating something new you couldn’t find anywhere else. I met with education leaders about connecting the business community and students to prepare the next generation workforce. We all shared stories about what motivated us in the work we did and what we valued at the end of the day.
I learned very quickly from their commitment to this community they all had one thing in common: they all had a sense the work they did belonged to Decatur and Morgan County. Many of them had spent their personal and professional lives in the area working to build something strong and make our city and county better than it was the day before. Not only did they toil at the work they felt called to do, but they took on volunteer opportunities when they saw something that needed improvement. They didn’t sit back and wait for someone else to fix the problem; they rolled up their sleeves and did the “heavy lifting.”
Our culture is built on identifying with groups with which we have something in common: a church, a neighborhood, a political party, a civic group, a team allegiance. When we become part of a group, we’re saying we share the values of this collection of people. It may be “do unto others,” it may be a fight song we sing when our team scores, it may be wanting to lift up our neighbor. There is strength in connecting with others whom you share something you treasure.
The same is true for this Chamber. We have more than 900 members across the city, county, state and country who belong to the membership representing more than 36,000 jobs. Some have a workforce of thousands, others a workforce of one. No member is more important than another, and none have a larger say than the next. It is a diverse collection of businesses, non-profits, industries, individuals, municipalities and everything in between.
They each joined the membership for different reasons, but they’re all part of this organization that advocates each day for a strong business community and a high quality of life. Each one of them belongs.
A few weeks ago, members received the Chamber’s new membership brochure titled “We Belong.” In it, you’ll find a diverse collection of business and community leaders sharing why they belong to the Chamber and why they value the mission we work for each day. Again, their reasons are all different. But in the end, they value and want what’s best for Decatur and Morgan County. They belong to the community, and they know being part of the Chamber makes our community a better place to live and work.
Also, on our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), you’ll see these testimonials from members about why they belong to the Chamber. I encourage you to share those among your network of friends, family and colleagues – especially the ones who aren’t members. Sometimes, we need to discover we have something in common with a group before we can see ourselves as a part of it.
The “We Belong” campaign is about you. It is understanding we have much more in common than we do that divides us. We all want a strong community, a robust local economy and schools that serve as cathedrals for educating our children. The work of the Chamber serves and belongs to the community.