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Better Than Best

I was saddened to hear last week that Ann Buckingham had passed away. Ann was 93, and I hadn't seen her in over 10 years. She was an active member of the Neponset Valley Chamber of Commerce for many years, so some of you certainly knew her, but I'm guessing most did not since she had retired many years ago.

Her obituary described her as a "A courageous, independent woman, 4' 10" (5 feet on heels) with a zest for life." I can certainly attest to that, and I will in a moment. She founded Buckingham Personnel Services in 1980 in Norwood. In addition to the NVCC, she was also active in the South Shore and Tri-Town Chambers of Commerce. However, it's with the NVCC that I was fortunate enough to work with Ann for 4 years.

From 1992 to 1996, I was Membership Director here at the Chamber, and it's then that I met Ann. I'm sure I was just in my first week on the job when she sat me down and told me what a great organization I was part of what great things we were going to do together. She was a member of the Membership and Ambassador committees, and I soon came to rely on her for advice in recruiting and retaining members. And she was happy to give it. I marveled at her energy and enthusiasm for our organization, after all I was getting paid, she wasn't.

Every year she could be counted on to recruit more new members than any other volunteer (and we had some good ones). She encouraged others to get involved, and she challenged them to bring new members to the organization. She made sure that I spent time thanking, recognizing and nurturing our volunteers. Why? Because she said, we are a membership organization and if our members didn't feel valued, they wouldn't be members for long. All this from a woman who, at the time, was in her 70's! I had a hard time keeping up with her, and I was, well, younger than I am now.

Ann used to always tell me that we needed to be "better than best" and in 1995, we were, winning the National Chamber of the Year Award based in part on our membership growth. It was a great joy to share that news with her. She later became a member of the board of directors and continued to serve long after I had moved on to the Plymouth Area Chamber.

I mention all this for two reasons: one, I want to recognize Ann one last time for what she has meant to our Chamber, and two, it reminds me how important our volunteers are to our success.

If members are the life blood of the Chamber, then active, volunteer members are the heart that keeps it pumping. We are fortunate to count scores of such people in our ranks, serving on our Board of Directors, program committees, standing committees and at our various activities.

The collective talent they bring to us is immeasurable. Their ideas help shape our programs and agenda. Their energy helps us manage events large and small, and their enthusiasm encourages others to participate in all that we have to offer.

So as I can still hear Ann Buckingham imploring me to recognize our volunteers, I want to extend our sincerest thanks to all of those members who, by their active participation in the NVCC, make our Chamber "better than best."

For more on volunteering click here