By IAN MUNRO
Daily News-Record 1/18/19
HARRISONBURG — Business leaders, taking time away from their everyday work to do a bit of socializing, chatted around the pool area of the DoubleTree by Hilton on Thursday evening. The event, sponsored by the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce, had a serious purpose beyond food and drinks, though.
The business community was invited to attend the chamber’s annual nonprofit showcase, which gives area organizations an opportunity to network.
Turning out for this year’s showcase were 28 local organizations, ranging from equestrian therapy and singing groups to representatives of other nonprofits of every shape and size.
“This year, it’s really exploded,” said Sheena Armentrout, the chamber’s director of memberships, of the annual showcase.
By November, all the spots for the 2019 event had been filled, she said. Encouraged by the turnout, Armentrout is now looking at organizing another nonprofit showcase in the fall.
“There’s nothing I like more than having the community interact with local nonprofits,” she said.
The chamber has capped the number of invited nonprofits at 25, although a few extra showed up Thursday due a miscommunication.
“It’s all in how you react,” Armentrout said, “I did the best I could.”
In previous years, the showcase has taken place at the MillerCoors plant near Elkton, but the schedules didn’t match up this year. Armentrout was able to get in touch with management at the DoubleTree and set up the event.
“This is definitely something we want to continue,” said Ivey Burke, the hotel’s sales manager. Terri Vest, a volunteer of 40 years with the Free Clinic in downtown Harrisonburg, said she doesn’t go to many events of this type, but “it’s a great opportunity to get to meet” people who visit the clinic.
Joel Simms, unit director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, said his CEO invited him to the showcase.
“I’ve always wanted to speak about nonprofits, and specifically this nonprofit,” he said. All the nonprofits share “a common ground,” Simms said, “of trying to make this a better place.”
Understanding the nuances of nonprofits is important, he said, as each one has different demands and expectations for volunteers and staff.
As the evening continued, Armentrout was confident the showcase would meet its average of 75 local business leaders in attendance, in spite of Thursday evening’s snowfall.
“[The event] is a great opportunity to connect with peers and local business leaders,” she said.
LEFT TO RIGHT: Joel Simms, unit director for the local Boys & Girls Clubs, speaks with Austin Mikol and Sarah Machold, mental health specialists with Cross Keys Equine Therapy on Thursday evening.