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Members discuss future of Three Forks Chamber

With the biggest attendance in person and online in recent memory, Three Forks Chamber of Commerce members voted at a special meeting last week to keep the organization active. At their regular June meeting, Chamber Board members discussed the possibility of dissolution and scheduled a special meeting to discuss its future.

At the opening of last week's meeting, Chamber President Brooke Leugers told those in attendance that it has been extremely difficult retaining board members and volunteers, and they need to take a hard look at the organization's future. She added they scheduled the special meeting to discuss revamping or possibly dissolving the Chamber.

With the large crowd in attendance, Leugers said she does not want to dissolve it, and with this much interest, she does not feel it is necessary.

Many attending the meeting urged the Chamber to do more to support local businesses.

Leann Bryant said a chamber is meant to be a member-driven organization and discussed getting members more engaged.

"Without a member-driven chamber, you don't have a chamber," she said.

Bryant feels it is essential to repair the reputation of the Three Forks Chamber. As a former Board Member who was on the Ambassador Committee, Bryant said she would call members, and the reception was not always warm. Bryant added the Chamber needs to repair relationships with businesses and get specific details from businesses of what they are looking for.

Local business owner Pam Carey did not feel like she was getting anything back from the Chamber, so they started doing their own events like the Three Forks Ladies Night Fall Walk. Leugers said she wants to see more businesses do events like the Fall Walk and said the Chamber is here to support them.

Another chamber member discussed the organization offering things like marketing and business coaching.

Longtime Chamber member Diane Phillips said she would really hate to see the organization dissolve and lose events like the Christmas Stroll, Rodeo Dayz, and the Farmer's Market.

Phillips said sometimes it is the quality of the members and not the quantity, adding the importance of building relationships to understand exactly what the membership wants.

Leugers said it is very much a member-driven organization, and while they hate hearing when people are disappointed, it is the only way they can learn and grow.

Board Member Fawn Venzor stressed the importance of finding more volunteers and an Executive Director, a paid position that has been vacant for over a year.

Former Executive Director Melissa Jenkins said whomever they hire for the position should focus more on relationships with members and less on events.

The possibility of combining with other local chambers was also discussed at the meeting. Leugers said this has become a trend in the northeast part of the state and mentioned possibly working with the Manhattan, Whitehall, and Belgrade Chambers.

Several Chamber members also discussed the possibility of moving the time of the monthly meeting noting difficulties with attending the meeting held on the first Monday of the month at 1 p.m.

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