Sometimes it just takes a friend’s example to nudge one into action. I’ve wanted to join the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership’s Ambassador program for some time, but I had always put it off. When a friend of mine enrolled in the spring Erie Ambassador course last year, I thought, “What am I waiting for?”
The Erie Ambassador program teaches its participants about numerous aspects of the region through presentations from Erie civic leaders. In addition, Erie Ambassadors are expected to attend at least two ribbon cuttings, two business-after-hours events, and two volunteer events during the year. The classes meet every other week for nine weeks with a graduation event at the end of the course.
It occurred to me that the Erie Ambassador program would also be a new way to spend quality time with Husband Jim, so we both signed up for the Spring 2014 class. At $175 per person, it works out to about $20 per session for each of us, not exactly an inexpensive venture, but a modest meal and a movie would cost as much.
Although we’ve spent most of our lives in Erie, we’re looking forward to learning more about our hometown and meeting some interesting people. At our orientation, that’s just what we did, in addition to seeing some familiar faces in the group.
Erie Ambassador orientation for the Spring 2014 class was held on a frigid January evening at the BLOOM Collaborative in the historic Rose Koehler Curtze mansion. Inside, light hors d’oeuvres and beverages, including a nice selection of wines, awaited as did approximately 40 friendly people.
Cathy Noble, event coordinator for the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership (ERCGP), welcomed us and gave an overview of the Erie Ambassador program. She asked the class members to introduce themselves, and I was delighted to see that we have a nice mix of professionals and community members in our group of 35 students. We’re made up of bankers, financial analysts, educators, engineers, sales executives, realtors, IT professionals, non-profit administrators, healthcare workers, legal professionals, and me, a writer.
Introductions were followed by overviews of the organization by August Shiava, VP of the Chamber Division, Nadeen Steffey, director of marketing and communications, and Ben Pratt, executive director of the Growth Partnership Division.
Then, Lee Steadman, BLOOM director and Soña Hernandez, holistic operations manager, introduced us to the Collaborative, which offers arts and wellness classes, curates art exhibitions, cultivates a community garden, and features a land plan based on designs from Florence, Italy. Most of the classes are free and open to anyone who’s interested. Steadman encouraged everyone to drop in and hang out in the well-equipped and pleasantly lit art studio, or, when the weather is nice, among the pleasant outdoor gardens.
The BLOOM Collaborative was formerly known as Center City Arts, a Stairways Behavioral Health program, which “uses the arts and humanities to treat mental illness and disabilities.” We learned that the Collaborative focuses on mental health, rather than mental illness, because while not everyone suffers from mental illness, everyone has a stake in mental health.
After the formal meeting concluded, we were invited to explore the historic building, view the art hanging on the walls, and browse the selection of arts-and-crafts available for sale in the boutique. We left with a folder full of information, an Erie Ambassador lapel pin, and an “ERIE” license plate.
We’re looking forward to the next session, which will take place at the International Trade Center located at the Erie International Airport. The training schedule includes upcoming sessions on arts and culture, education, power and water, downtown development, economic development/biodiesel, tourism, and our own local gem, Presque Isle State Park.
Links:Week One – Orientation Week Two – Airport/Transportation Week Three – Arts & Culture Week Four – Education Week Five – Power & Water Week Six – Biodiesel Week Seven – Downtown Development Week Eight – Presque Isle Week Nine – Tourism Graduation!
Ann Silverthorn (Twitter: @annsilverthorn) is a versatile blogger who’s written about a wide variety of subjects in a vast number of genres. She’s a proven writer on technology topics, in addition to travel, creative, and grant writing. Ann is currently working on a biography on the life of William E. Dimorier (1871-1951), the nearly forgotten poet and assistant principal of Academy High School in Erie, PA, who dedicated his life to the betterment of young people. Dimorier’s story will demonstrate how this man of humble beginnings positively influenced many lives around the world.