The Duneland Chamber of Commerce had the Blue Chip Casino buzzing on Wednesday night, not with swarms of eager gamblers, but with the excitement of both new and old members looking toward the future of Duneland-area prosperity.
The Casino hosted the chamber’s annual meeting in a packed event center, where energetic conversations filled the large room and set the tone for an evening of celebration and hopefulness. Such enthusiasm was to be expected, as dramatic improvements continue to be made all across the Duneland area from one year to the next.
“It’s great to work with so many communities,” said Beth Luncsford, who as Marketing Director had a heavy hand in organizing the event and bringing everyone together to celebrate.
“Not only do we [as the Chamber of Commerce] get to help these communities, but we also get to be their biggest cheerleaders,” she said.
Looking around the Duneland area, it seems that the Chamber’s help and encouragement is truly paying off.
In 2017, the town of Chesterton locked down a $2 million park bond that will serve to make significant improvements to all ten public parks. The town also continued its expansive real estate projects, which includes constructing over 210 single family homes between Morgan’s Corner and Brassie Estates.
The town of Porter has seen significant infrastructure improvements in the past year, completing the pavement of over 26 miles of new roads alongside dramatic sidewalk repairs in the surrounding subdivisions.
Burns Harbor, which celebrated it's 50th anniversary in 2017, experienced a second successful season of it’s Food Truck Square event, which hosted over 10,000 visitors from June to October. In 2018, the Chamber will be partnering with the town to ensure that the event keeps growing, as it introduces the European Market into the event this summer.
Yet, the board members present at the meeting did little to pat themselves on the back. Instead, as the night went on and departing board members were recognized, it became more and more apparent that the true spirit of the event was centered around the feeling of family that tied the Chamber’s member close together.
Duneland Chamber of Commerce President Maura Durham led the farewells from the stage, handing out awards to recognize all that had been accomplished by departing members.
“Everyone lends something unique, and you’re always sad to see these good people go,” said Durham. “We’ve all been through a lot, through thick and thin together, and by the end of it you’re saying goodbye to a friend.”
One of those good friends in particular is John Marshall, who after eight years of service on the board is stepping down, and was brought up to the stage to be recognized.
“When you become involved in the board and go through all the positions, you get so wrapped up in giving back to the community that after those many years when you finally step back, there’s a sort of void that sticks with you,” said Marshall. “My involvement with the Duneland Chamber has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”
At the very end of the night, after the goodbyes had been said and the new committee members had been officially welcomed, Kirk Futrell was brought onto the stage to accept the 2017 Ambassador Committee Member of the Year Award and close out the evening.
After praising his colleagues for their commitment to the chamber, Futtrell could think of no better way to both wrap up the event and kickstart a new year than to lead the audience in a full minute of forced, albeit contagious, laughter.
“I don’t know why, but it really does do something to you,” Futtrell said in closing with a smile.
“That’s what I want to do this new year in 2018, is have a great time with this amazing group of people.”
Ambassador of the Year Award:
The following outgoing board members were recognized for their outstanding service to the Duneland Chamber of Commerce:
Jim Starin, outgoing board chair
Joanna Nelson, outgoing board member
Jeff Fleming, outgoing board member
John Marshall, outgoing board member