Our firm admires the hard work, dedication and fierce commitment of frontline workers who are helping those in need, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have stepped up in the face of this great challenge and we, along with the rest of our community, are profoundly grateful. To shine a light on some of the heroes in our community, we have created a series of blog posts to help share their stories of working during COVID-19.
The entire team at the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, led by President and CEO Frank Castella Jr., has truly stepped up to aid their local community during this difficult time and we are in awe of their unfailing commitment to serving others. Under Frank’s passionate leadership, the Chamber helped form the Dutchess Business Notification Network (DBNN), which offers the latest news and resources to help local businesses and nonprofits. The DBNN includes weekly email blasts, a Facebook group and a website dedicated to housing these vital tools – all of which are accessible to the community at large. In addition to this tremendous undertaking, Frank and his team have been working around the clock to offer supportive programming to underserved communities, as well as leadership development programming for youth, adults and executives. The Chamber has been a lifeline for many as we weather the COVID-19 storm – always reminding us to think local first.
Tell us more about the mission of your organization and the populations you serve.
The Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce provides leadership in creating and supporting an environment in which businesses and nonprofit organizations will succeed in our community, and the quality of life is enhanced. We do so through legislative advocacy for our nearly 1,500 members, pro-active referrals, extensive member services, networking opportunities, seminars, continuing education, mentorship, special events and more.
How have you been carrying your mission, programs and services forth during COVID-19? What has changed?
Our organization has held true to our mission to assist businesses throughout the pandemic, however we have expanded our reach to non-members of the chamber to serve the entire community in a time of need. We recognized early on the need for an accurate communications source to businesses and nonprofits. We partnered with 12 other regional economic development organizations to deliver one source of dependable news, information, webinars, resources and a voice to our elected officials – on behalf of all local employers. We maintained our supportive programming to underserved communities, as well as our leadership development programming for youth, adults and executives.
How has your specific role changed since the start of this crisis?
There hasn’t been a role in our organization that hasn’t changed. The hours of operation for all of our Chamber professional staff became nonexistent and the entire team answered when called upon, regardless of the hour or day of the week. We moved from an events-based organization to a resource-driven enterprise. In order to achieve this, we have played to the talents of our co-workers to deliver the highest level of value for constituents.
What are the biggest challenges your organization is facing right now?
The biggest challenge we face as an organization is the uncertainty of income from membership dues, events and sponsorships. Not having a stable revenue stream to support an organization of our size is a challenge, especially given the inability to apply for a loan that offers forgiveness.
How can people show support?
The great thing about supporting the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce is that you can show it in so many ways. The most fundamental is to support our community and think local first! If you need a product or service and you want to know who you’re doing business with, be sure to check our membership directory. Our directory is the single source of local products and services and those businesses need your support, now more than ever. We have always taken pride in the 13-year-long campaign and we will continue to promote our local businesses, but we can’t do it without the support of our neighbors. We are the only direct connection to the business community and our sponsors have found great value in this. They continue to fiscally underwrite our organization though sponsorship of our online resources, webinars, communications and more. If you are affiliated with a business or organization and want to get involved with your community and grow, we’d love to have you as a member of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce!
What has resonated with you most during this time?
What’s resonated with me the most is the impact on our local employers. It is difficult to express the depth of the economic uncertainty and challenges that our businesses and nonprofit organizations are facing. These enterprises make up the backbone of our economy and the financial impact has affected all of our friends, co-workers, neighbors and family in some way. The health impact of the pandemic goes without saying, but the lasting economic injury will likely outlast the disease itself. However, we will adapt, persevere and overcome as one community. I am forever amazed at the resilience and creativity of the American spirit and ingenuity to overcome and support one another in a time of crisis. From assisting first responders to pivoting the operations of organizations, nothing beats the community spirit and pride of an American.
If you had to pick something positive that has come out of this, what would it be?
We’ve seen a really positive reaction from our community. People ARE thinking local first and doing whatever they can to support businesses and organizations in their neighborhoods. We have been privy to many examples of selfless acts, that will never be published or widely-known, and that is what warms our hearts, gives us all hope for humankind and will ultimately contribute to the resurgence of our people and country. We’ll all be happy to see our friends, family and colleagues when getting back into our places of work and play, but most importantly we owe a great deal to those who have risked their lives to keep us safe and healthy.