The Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce had its year-end meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 10. Members and guests gathered for lunch and presentations at the Heritage Inn ballroom, as incoming and outgoing chamber board members spoke about their time there and their hopes for the future.
Karen Penner has been the Chamber director for over 30 years and is retiring this year.
Penner said it’s been a blessing to represent the community and the Chamber at events in the Cranbrook and throughout the province.
“There’s so much I cherish from my time with the staff at the Chamber. They have influenced, challenged and amused me. They have become family over the years and I love them dearly. I had passion for my job and a deep pride for my community. And so with love and respect I thank you for sharing this incredible journey with me.”
She noted some of those opportunities: hosting the 1986 B.C. Summer Games; celebrating the 100th anniversary of this Chamber; carrying the Olympic torch in 2010; accepting the Chamber of the Year award in 2011; and being a member of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce Executives.
Penner said there were fewer than 100 members when they started the Chamber and now there are 476. There were only five people at the first Chamber lunch, but Wednesday’s filled the ballroom to capacity.
“It was your collective energy and involvement that provided the strength and reason as my career evolved,” Penner said to the crowd. “You enabled me to see what was truly possible. There are those who say that this Chamber is to strong, and to those I say good on you… I hope you continue to grow and get even stronger.”
She said it’s great that there are members who are not afraid to tackle challenging issues.
She said last week’s turkey drive was magical.
“It’s the best day of the year,” she said. “It truly is Christmas spirit.”
David Hull is the Chamber’s new executive director.
“I came from a long, storied career in private enterprise and took a two year contract to work for a Chamber 10 years ago and it turned into a love affair for Chambers, Chamber management and the good work Chambers do across the towns, the regions, the provinces and the countries,” Hull said.
He also noted that Karen Penner’s legacy is noted across the province for her work in all facets of how to operations and best practices for Chambers.
David Struthers is the new president, taking over the David Butler.
Butler reflected on the productive year of the Chamber.
“One of our goals was to be more relevant to more businesses,” Butler said. “I’m proud to confirm that thanks to the hard work of our amazing staff team and a committed board of local business leaders — 14 of them — we made significant progress towards that goal this year.”
Sixty-three new businesses joined the Chamber in 2014.
The Chamber also announced the Citizen of the Year for 2014: Derek Korschaga. A special ceremony will be held in January marking the honour.
Townsman editor Barry Coulter gave humorous review of the year, and also sang a song for Cranbrook and to celebrate Penner’s time with the Chamber.
Jason Wheeldon and Warren Bedell announced that last week’s Chamber sponsored turkey shattered last year’s record, raising more than $40,600 for the Salvation Army and Cranbrook Food Bank Society, to help everyone in the community enjoy a festive Christmas. The funds were presented to Nancy Lemire representing the Salvation Army, and Gerry Oviatt of the Cranbrook Food Bank Society.