With April on the doorstep, I have three Chamber updates that will all help the local businesses one way or the other. For each of these, if you need more information you can call me at the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber office, (207) 725-8797, or if you prefer, shoot me an e-mail at [email protected]

Who is your COVID Hero? Annually, we have a massive dinner in March called the Annual Award Dinner where we recognize six to nine business leaders for outstanding contributions they’ve made to the region over the past year or throughout their lifetime. This was actually the last “regular” Chamber event we held prior to the pandemic, on March 6 last year. With COVID still around, we couldn’t do an indoor event this March so we have moved it outdoors to May 13 at Brunswick Golf Club. The awards reception will start at 4 p.m. as the Chamber’s Golf Tournament is concluding, so two events in one.

COVID has changed so many things this past 13 months, and it has changed this event too. Typically we give awards such as the volunteer of the year, but having the same awards, with the same criteria during such a unique year, seemed incongruent with what the past year has been. I mean, how do you determine one volunteer of the year winner, when dozens of community members went above and beyond to help local businesses, organizations and citizens get through this one-of-a-kind pandemic?

With that, our SMMC Awards Reception this year will be honoring those people and those stories. It’s a chance for anyone to say thank you to anyone that helped get them through the past year, in whatever form that takes. We call these people our Covid Heroes.

The SMMC will be accepting all nominations for Covid Heroes until April 19. There will be a submission form on the SMMC website soon, if not already, at www.midcoastmaine.com or you can simply e-mail them to me with the address listed in the opening paragraph (100 words or less per nomination, please).

Please note, I’m using the word ‘nomination’ because it is familiar to people, but this is not a contest. We won’t be tabulating these nominations to select “a winner”- that’s not what this is. Everyone who is nominated in this process is a winner, and we just want to share those stories throughout the year. We’ll highlight some of the stories during the Awards Reception, but only to give examples of who our Covid Heroes are, not to necessarily pick any as more important then others, because they are all important.

So, who is your Covid Hero? I expect, like me, you may have many, and you can submit as many nominations as you would like.

Some were philanthropists who supported organizations in need; some were volunteers who helped with a project even though they were high-risk; some were citizens who chose to volunteer their time because they just wanted to give back; some were lenders that helped you secure a loan; some were frontline workers who supported us by their strength to show up; some were agencies that connected us to resources; some were healthcare professionals who led the with guidance and compassion; and some were colleagues who shared a laugh with us.

A business that re-opened so you had an escape; an elected official who helped share updates or create policy for your survival; a customer who went out of their way to check on you and the staff; a neighbor who organized a socially distanced gathering; an employee who did extra cleanings to ensure everyone else would have a safe environment; an owner who invested in order to make the business safer; an employee who figured out a new procedure to help the office keep functioning; and a staff member who just made you smile and made your days just a little easier.

Your Covid Hero is whoever helped you get through, big or small, and we want to hear all the stories. Because as we emerge from this, it’s important for all of us to let others know just how much their help meant to us.

Chamber Tourism Guide is Happening with Help from RFB Advertising The SMMC annually produces a guest guide with a chamber member directory along with pages of area information for relocators and tourists. It’s an essential publication for our region, but sadly, one that we couldn’t produce in 2020 due to the pandemic. The two major reasons for not publishing were that we weren’t sure what the tourism season was going to look like, and the fact that the printing for the guide is offset by advertisements businesses buy in the guide to promote themselves.

Well, the 2021 Eat Play Stay: Companion Guide to the Bath-Brunswick-Midcoast Region is happening, thanks to RFB Advertising. Ross Cunningham of RFB, is helping the chamber this year by doing the ad sales, so the chamber can focus on the content in the guide with the RFB designers. With all of the concurrent chamber projects happening this spring, having RFB help us produce this will be critical.

We’re getting a bit of a late start — typically the sales would have begun in late February — but the book should be ready for distribution by mid-June, and ad sales begin today.

The other big news is that the chamber is expanding and wants to hire a Chamber Coordinator for 20 hours per week to start, by May 1. This is a huge development for us because this will allow us to amplify our impact in the region and take on more projects in a more timely fashion. The right candidate will be a friendly problem solver, who is people-first and creative with, great follow-through, and a passion for building community. The details will be posted on the SMMC website this Friday, April 2 or again contact me at the chamber office.
Cory King is the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber.

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