Two years after the Old Fort Chamber of Commerce was on the brink of dissolving, the organization now has a new leader who says she has a “fire in her soul” to work for the greater Old Fort community.
Kim Effler was named the new executive director of the Old Fort Chamber of Commerce this summer, replacing long-time director Rick Acrivos.
“Kim was our treasurer in the past and on the board several years ago. She had to move out of town, but now she is back and is on fire to work,” Acrivos told The McDowell News. “She will make a huge difference in the Chamber. Her work and attitude is beyond reproach. I am totally thrilled she will be able to take over my position and let me retire.”
The Old Fort Chamber of Commerce was formed in January 1990 by a small group of business leaders. They met 28 years ago to establish a Chamber of Commerce “for the advancement of the civic, commercial, industrial, and professional interests of the Town of Old Fort.”
In 2016, the Old Fort Chamber of Commerce had discussed dissolving due to lack of interest among local businesses and the town in chamber-related events. The Old Fort group has been active since 1990. After a special meeting in 2016, members came together and decided to continue, but the hunt was on for a new leader.
Effler has already hit the ground running by updating the chamber’s website, creating a monthly newsletter and sponsoring National Cleanup Day on Sept. 15.
“I have so many ideas, and now it’s just getting everything pointed in the right direction and moving forward. We are here to advocate for our small business owners. We are a local voice and we are defining how instrumental we are going to be in the town,” she said.
The first goal for the chamber, said Effler, is to communicate what is going on within the organization.
“We hear often there is a disconnect in the community. I feel that creating a newsletter will simply better connect our members with us and what we are doing, community events, showcase new business owners and town history. I feel like the newsletter is a good place to start,” she said.
As the volunteer director, Effler is also a small business owner working to open up her investment firm at a building in downtown Old Fort.
“Small business owners work harder than anyone. It takes a very determined, very brave soul. Often you are sacrificing time and financial resources from your family. And that’s where we owe these brave souls by supporting them,” said Effler.
Currently, the Old Fort Chamber has 54 members. The board is made up of President John Sullivan and members Tony Marsh, Lonnie Bewernitz, Kim Thompson and Rick Acrivos.
“We are establishing roles and responsibilities for our board. When we grow our board, we want to hold them accountable. We are really beginning again and taking a look at everything we do, and I think that’s OK,” said Effler. “This is the opportunity to be great. We have to keep the focus of adding value to our small businesses and community as top of mind.”
In previous years, the Old Fort Chamber of Commerce and the Old Fort Board of Aldermen have had different visions for the community. When asked how she would help bridge that relationship, she said she won’t give up trying.
“I have so much fire in my soul. If I can’t get the support from the local government officials, I’m not going to stop. I come in peace, I come as a voice and I come because I teach my children every day to make a difference,” Effler said. “I am not getting paid to be here, I am not getting paid for any of this effort, but I sleep better at night knowing that I did something to change the community that we live in for the better.”
Old Fort Chamber of Commerce is seeking new board and business members. For more information, visit oldfortchamber.com, call 668-7223 or Kim Effler directly at 304-841-4507.