Joanna Rolek - Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce
Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce
Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber: Tell everyone a little bit about the Chamber and how you came to work here.
Joanna Rolek: The LF/LB Chamber was established over 60 years ago as a business association to support local merchants. I’ve been the Executive Director for 23 years now—quite a difference in the Chamber, our business mix and the retail climate since then! Something called ‘internet shopping’ was just starting to take off. During these years there have been many changes in Chambers, including ours. Although we still operate as the primary entity that brings the local business community together we’ve evolved to meet the needs of our members and communities to support best practices in promoting our members, offering them resources and education, and playing a role in economic development for Lake Forest and Lake Bluff.
LFLBC: What is the one thing you want people to know about the Chamber?
JR: At the heart of it, that our entire focus is the success of our businesses, nonprofits and communities. We want everyone in the community to ‘Think Local First’ for shopping, dining, recreation, health and fitness, personal care, home improvement…for really everything they need. Our local businesses have so much competition right now, especially online shopping. Because of that and the restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID crisis, we’re in danger of losing some of our most beloved local businesses. We must do all we can to keep our dollars right here in our communities to support our local businesses, many of which are owned and operated by fellow residents.
LFLBC: How has the Chamber adapted during the Coronavirus crisis?
JR: By evolving and innovating alongside our businesses. We have all been working remotely and have moved much of what we offer to a virtual platform and continue to reach our members, residents and our partners with up-to-the-minute information and access. As a nonprofit organization, we survive mainly on annual member dues, and we’re concerned that we may lose members in 2021 due to their financial constraints. We supplement our dues revenue with event admissions and sponsorships, but with COVID, we’ve been forced to cancel our biggest fundraising events, like many other nonprofits in our community.
LFLBC: How do you give back to the community?
JR: Our role is to really bring the businesses and community members together, to help foster the vibrant community spirit that we have in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff. We use many tactics to achieve that, foremost among them is probably the popular community events and initiatives that involve our local businesses.
LFLBC: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
JR: We have gotten calls and messages from community members asking how they can help us in our work to help our businesses – we so appreciate that as we, too, are challenged by the current disruptions. We have not been able to host the fundraising events that provide non-dues income this year, a critical component of our budget so we’ve initiated our new ‘Love LFLB Community Partner’ program to provide a way to invest in our work. Residents and visitors can contribute $25, $50 or $100 to support the Chamber’s continuing to be able to provide what we do for our local businesses and communities. Contributions can be made on our website: www.lflbchamber.com. We are most grateful for the community partnership in our endeavors – we’re all in this together because we ‘Love LF & LB’!