Guest Editorial: Wake Up Lincoln!
Last updated 9/7/2022 at 1:05pm
We would like to express an opinion relating to an article in the latest edition of the Blackfoot Valley Dispatch by Roger Dey, BVD Editor, regarding the future of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. In the article it was stated that the Chamber was facing suspension if it could not get enough people to fill the board of directors. I do not write many editorials but have been moved on occasion to express an opinion when issues hit a nerve.
The article called Tipping Point pointed out that the Chamber’s future is in danger if we cannot light a fire under our local businesses, and by that I expressly am pointing at Main St., to become more involved. Roger included a current listing of current members, which numbered 38 entities doing business in and around the Lincoln community. What is missing here? Any number of Main St. businesses (and you know who you are), for reasons of their own, have chosen to not support the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce with a membership. Chamber membership costs $100 annually and sends a positive message that the local business community is willing to work together to achieve economic success for its town.
With the current lack of support it could very well lead to the disbanding of the Chamber entirely. If that were to happen events like the 4th of July parade and the fireworks display would likely disappear. Those events bring people and money into the community that many of our retail shops and restaurants depend heavily on to carry them through the leaner months of winter. As former Lincoln business owners and Chamber board members ourselves we would be very disappointed to see that happen.
What would Lincoln look like if the 4th of July events were to change or disappear? There is a tremendous effort put forth by Chamber volunteers to make that weekend happen. Our parks are full with visitors from various areas of Montana and beyond; cabin dwellers are here; our restaurants and drinking establishments fill to beyond capacity all to enjoy the holiday and our community. If we were to let even one parade lapse due to a lack of volunteer interest, it would likely never come back. For more than 50 years we have been able to close Hwy. 200 with a permit from MDOT, which is not easy. Lincoln is the only Montana town able to close down a state highway for a period of time for a parade and becomes iffy almost every year. I know we have struggled with the bureaucracy of securing that permit in the past. The volunteer effort to bring the fireworks, which is costly and digs deeply into the Chamber funds, may also cease to exist. But there are a few volunteer individuals who care enough to put in the time for pyrotechnical training, setting up the firing tubes, walk the parade route seeking additional donations that never break even for the initial expense, and organize the parade itself. In short, it takes a lot of people to make it all happen; many who would rather sit back and enjoy the holiday festivities for themselves and their families but choose, instead, to volunteer.
Fourth of July events are not the only at-risk ventures in jeopardy for Lincoln. We already know the BVD has reluctantly decided to cease its print edition; the Community Benefit, another Chamber sponsored event, has not been held in the past two years, the future of the Lincoln Senior Center and its ability to continue serving the needs of our senior population is also in jeopardy. How much are we willing to sit back and watch disappear in our community?
The Lincoln Chamber is not, by any means, the only organization suffering from a lack of volunteers to fill needed spots on local boards. As an unincorporated community we rely on our volunteers to ensure things get done. Whether its our School Board, Lincoln Parks, Community Garden, Senior Center, Ponderosa Snow Warriors, Fire Dept. and Ambulance, Hospital District or any number of other local organizations; we take care of ourselves and need willing volunteers to give time, energy and expertise to make this community work. There really is no one but ourselves who can make this happen.
I know many feel that they have already volunteered to the point of being burned out (we have already done our share) and have little more to give. But new generations are following behind those individuals, younger blood who could step up with a little encouragement. Perhaps we need to examine how we want our town to move forward and determine what we can do to help. I believe there is a significant number of Main St. businesses, at the very least, who can step up and help to lead this community forward. You do not have to be a business owner either; others with an interest in serving their community can find a niche in helping Lincoln survive this economic and local services downturn. Get involved; there are opportunities everywhere and the need is so very profound.