CLARKSTOWN, N.Y. -- If you’ve been admiring the new trash can corrals or the pretty holiday lights in downtown Nanuet, you can thank the hardworking folks at the Clarkstown hamlet’s Chamber of Commerce.
They are also the behind-the-scenes elves who organize community events such as street, art and health fairs and the wildly popular Halloween Spooktacular.
When they aren’t doing that, they are throwing networking parties for fledgling entrepreneurs, awarding scholarships to local students and holding ribbon-cuttings for new businesses.
All that is fine, says one of its founding members, Susan Farese, but there is something more important that the 150-member Chamber does: It acts as the “voice,” not only for businesses, but for everyone who lives and works in the hamlet.
She and other members meet regularly with Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann, even if, Farese says, “there’s nothing to discuss.”
“We want to make sure that the town doesn’t forget that we exist,” Farese says.
With train and bus services that take workers into Manhattan, the hamlet is a major transportation hub. It also, Farese says, has the most centrally located business district in Rockland.
“We’re important,” she adds.
The 5-year-old organization does, of course, help promote shops and services with things such as email blasts, but its role is really as a liaison between residents, the town and the business community.
Working together helps ensure, Farese says, that everyone’s concerns are heard and needs are met in a way that benefits the entire community.
Farese, a local volunteer who has three kids (one in high school, two in college), got involved with the Chamber through her work with parent-teacher groups and a project that rebuilt a beloved community playground.
She and Chamber president Risa Hoag, a lifelong resident, were neighbors, but didn’t really know each other until they both were in the group.
(Hoag was vice president of the original Nanuet Chamber of Commerce in 1996 before the construction of the Palisades Center Mall.)
The Chamber recently surprised its secretary and Hoag with Foundation Leadership Awards, an honor, Farese says, that really belongs to everyone on the board and its many volunteers.
(The November award ceremony was attended by Hoehmann and Town Council members John Noto, Frank Borelli and Adrienne Carey.)
She and Hoag, who owns a public relations business, may sometimes be thought of as the faces of the group, but nothing gets done in a vacuum.
“Nothing I do is without the help of the people on the board,” Farese said, or, apparently, the town.
The Chamber and the town have been working closely together on the revitalization of the hamlet’s Main Street, both Hoag and Farese say.
A recent rezoning means that affordable housing can be built for millennials within walking distance of the train station, and, hopefully, more mom-and-pop shops.
The ultimate goal is not only to make sure that young people want to return to their home base after college, but to make Nanuet, Hoag says, “a fun place to live and to work.”
The Chamber also strives, Hoag adds, to keep the community events it sponsors “fresh” and relevant, but more importantly, to get as many people involved in the Chamber as possible.
“The more people know each other, the more they’re going to buy from each other,” Hoag says.
“Businesses need us to make it work,” Farese says. “But we need the right businesses to make it (the revitalization of Main Street) work.”
Getting back to the elves who recently prettied up the downtown: One Chamber member, a carpenter by trade, made the wooden corrals that now hide the trash cans.(Hoag and Farese donned blue jeans to help install them.) Another, who has a landscaping business is donating most of the materials for the garden and water feature that will welcome folks to the business district next spring. And the town and the Chamber got the funds together for the lights.
Apparently, as Hoag and Farese both say, the whole is happily greater than the sum of its parts.