Vinton Chamber Members
Angie Lewis (right) and Kathryn Sowders are "the heart and soul of the chamber."
From gaining new members and overseeing annual events to the everyday tasks of running a chamber of commerce, one may think it would take a large staff to tackle these challenges. But walk into the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce, and you’ll see the two employees who do it all…and with smiles on their faces.
Angie Chewning, executive director, and Kathryn Sowers, secretary, are “the heart and soul of the chamber,” says board president Liz Munn-Lively. “They are involved in all aspects of the town; we couldn’t do anything we do without them.”
Chewning had moved back to the area and was working at William Byrd High School when she heard the position for executive director was opening.
“I said, ‘I want that job,’” she recalls. After applying and interviewing, several months passed until she learned she was selected for the position. And on her first day, she had to quickly take the reigns and help host the town’s fall festival. Luckily, she says, Sowers was there to help.
Sowers had worked at the chamber in the ‘70s and was asked to come back in August 2010 during the search for executive director. She was a “blessing in disguise,” says former Chamber president Sabrina Weeks.
“Kathryn has a passion for the Chamber and does an excellent job promoting it,” Weeks adds.
When she was hired, Sowers says at first it was to have a body in the office.
“People would call and ask questions and I was here to answer,” she says.
She was then asked to train Chewning, and after that two-week period, Chewning wanted her to stay. She did, and has been working for the chamber part-time ever since.
“Kathryn and Angie work well together which creates a very warm inviting feel as soon as you step through the door at the chamber office,” says Weeks.
And the two enjoy their jobs, especially the opportunity to help promote their community. They have watched Vinton annual events grow and become more successful each year due to their efforts, and even helped new events (Winter Concert and Senior Expo) take off.
Since Chewning started at the chamber, membership has grown from 150 to 211. The number fluctuates due to businesses leaving or closing, but it continues to increase. And Lively says every year Chewning does new things to help the town prosper.
“Angie works diligently at increasing chamber membership and coordinates business after hours, membership luncheons, and ribbon cutting ceremonies for new members,” Weeks says.
She also is more than willing to promote members in any way she can.
“It blows the minds of some business owners that I will promote them for free (via e-blasts, Facebook, etc.),” Chewning says. “But getting the word out about what Vinton has to offer is what the chamber should do.”
Even when she’s not at work, Lewis says she is constantly talking about Vinton or asking for volunteers for events.
“Angie came into a great chamber,” Lively says. “But it’s awesome what she has done to take it to the next level.”