By Bradly Gill
In December, the Ouachita County Quorum Court appropriated $40,000 at its monthly meeting to provide CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Security) Act funds to the Salvation Army and Camden Chamber of Commerce.
Due to financial struggles caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, utilities at the Chamber, such as phone and gas service, had been shut off.
"That was true. That was a direct result of our not being able to pay our bills on time," Chamber Executive Director Beth Osteen said. "The gas thing was a little different because we only use gas for heat. Those 9 months out of the year you're paying taxes basically. "
Osteen added, "Due to COVID we had loss of revenues, mainly from fundraisers because we weren't able to have the barn sale, we weren't able to have the 5k, we weren't able to have the banquet, which are three really large fundraisers for us. The county judge (Robert McAdoo) approached us and said 'I may be able to help you guys out if you can prove it was directly related to COVID,' which we were able to do."
Osteen told Justices of the Peace in December that the Chamber lost $8,000 due to the cancellation of its annual banquet. They also lost $28,000 in Chamber member dues revenue, she said.
"The (county) judge is an ex-officio member of the Chamber executive board, as well as the Mayor (of Camden, Julian Lott) and the administrator of the hospital, Peggy Abott, and CADC ,which is James Lee Silliman. It was in one of these meeting that the idea (to ask the Quorum Court) was presented to us for the Chamber," said Chamber President Gregory Nettles.
"The timing was it was right before there their budget meeting, so it worked out well for us and we certainly appreciate the judge for doing that," Osteen added.
Nettles said that the annual Chamber banquet will be held this year, and said they are looking at a few high profile speakers to potentially choose for the event's key note speaker.
"I don't want to release names at the moment, but we are looking forward to it. A couple of years ago we brought back James Thrower; he was the first African-American from Camden to be drafted in the NFL. Part of the history of that is he went to Lincoln and his father Delvin Thrower was President of that school system," Nettles said.
McAdoo said the Camden Barn Sale, usually a big fundraiser for the Chamber, did not perform as expected either.
"We didn't have the same number of vendors. It could have been a different location along with the side effects of COVID," he said. "And it may be a lot of those vendors getting out the way they did pre-COVID."
Osteen said the Chamber is working with City Attorney Michael Frey on a request for CARES funding from the City of Camden.