Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
Wow…what a crazy week! Can anyone remember a time or incident which has caused so much change of lifestyle in such a short time? In the last 24 hours we have seen the widespread cancellations of the NCAA Tournament, the NHL and NBA seasons and the suspension of the MLB baseball and MLS soccer seasons and the postponement of the PGA Master’s Tournament. Colleges are switching to online teaching modalities and canceling all sports schedules…and communities are canceling major events which would cause large numbers of people to gather in a similar location, such as St. Patrick’s Day parades and large festivals. On some level we don’t want to give into the fear and panic that causes us to not continue our lives with a degree of normality…on the other hand we all have a societal obligation to do our part in stopping the spread of the coronavirus. It all seems surreal with a very eerie feel.
 
Locally our efforts of community protection are in full force…lead by Franklin County Health Administrator, Midge Ransom. Thursday this week she gathered community leaders to give more information about COVID-19 (pictures here) and to help our local leaders better understand the strategies being implemented which will stop the spread. Nationwide we are deploying social distancing which is a proven effective method in slowing the spread of an epidemic.
 
This pandemic is already a huge challenge to our community and society. We must have a human response to protect the most vulnerable which includes the elderly, disabled and (maybe most importantly) our healthcare workers and providers. At the same time community services must continue. We are going to be called to manage conflicting and uncertain values for not only ourselves but our organizations. Things will be different for a while…all this will require adaption, participation and leadership. Take care of yourself…be mindful of your circles of family and friends.     
 
There is an old ancient Chinese proverb which states, “May you live in interesting times”…I think we most certainly qualify!!
 
KOFO Lawn & Garden Show:
 
It was most definitely spring last Saturday inside the ORC Goppert Center for the annual KOFO Lawn and Garden Show (pictures here). I swung by midmorning…there was a nice crowd milling around all the vendor booths which ranged from roofing, siding and guttering opportunities to wild flowers and lawn and garden equipment. This year’s event was held on a very spring weekend weather-wise…often times I remember cold weather and even snow for the annual event making it seem as if warm weather was far into the future. It is much easier to get excited about spring when you can look outside and see it. Hate to mention this…but with the moisture we’ve had and now warm weather we are all going to be mowing our lawns sooner rather than later!!
 
Serenity Case Management:
 
This morning we welcomed another new business to downtown Ottawa as Serenity Case Management hosted us for a Chamber ribbon cutting (pictures here). Elizabeth Barkley owns the case management company which is a social service that helps the developmentally disabled manage their lives and living arrangements. Serving 15 counties, their work is really more a calling than a vocation. Serenity works hand in hand with organizations such as COF Training Services to assure those who can’t advocate for themselves are safe, happy and in a good environment. Businesses such as this were called to form with the federal government’s enactment of “final rule” legislation which sought to separate the source of money from the actual caregivers. Welcome downtown to Elizabeth and your crew…their work will be even more critical in the days ahead as they work to protect their clients from the coronavirus and allow them to live in a normal and safe environment. Thanks for your work and thanks for being in Ottawa! 
 
OHS Boys Basketball:
 
Congratulations on a great season to our Ottawa High School boys’ basketball team…they competed at a high level this season earning a berth in the State 4-A tournament. Here are pictures of their fellow students sending the team to Salina for their round-1 tournament game. Sadly they lost but they represented Ottawa and themselves valiantly…good job guys (and coaches). Right after their game the rest of the state high school tournament was canceled…so even if they had been victorious their season would have ended. I’m sure they will all remember this year for the special comradery and good play…and also the odd turn of events which surrounded our society as their team’s season wound to a close. Thanks for an exciting season team – good job!
 
Spaghetti and BINGO:
 
No – not Bingo the dog…in this case BINGO the game played in support of dogs! Last Saturday evening Prairie Paws Animal Shelter hosted a Spaghetti supper with vigorous games of BINGO following (pictures here). All for a good cause, Cherry and I played a few cards. We didn’t get too close to winning at BINGO…but it was just a fun evening. Melissa Reed and her staff do a fantastic job of providing care to our four-legged friends at the local shelter. There was also a silent auction going on at the same time…in total they raised approximately $5,000.00 for the shelter. Sadly and fortunately at the same time, I had an extended conversation with Charles Gillette during the event. He is a longtime supporter of our local animal shelter. Charles passed away this past week…a former City Commissioner and Mayor he and his wife Sue have been huge Ottawa advocates for many, many years. Charles will be missed…I’m glad I had that last conversation with him last Saturday evening.
 
Going forward…:
For now, we are not canceling any scheduled Chamber events…this could change as our community situation changes. We will need to adapt as the conditions vary in the weeks and months ahead. Whatever happens will be very respectful of all citizens for their safety and our own…simply greeting with hello and not a handshake will be a very big challenge for me (and most Midwesterners) – I just naturally stick out my hand.
 
The Latin motto is, “extremis malis extrema remedia” – desperate times call for desperate measures. Hippocrates said it like this, “For extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure, as to restriction, are most suitable.” We are not dealing with something new in the course of human events…only new to us. Be safe out there…and wash your hands. We are in uncharted waters now…how we adapt can have lasting effects going forward.      
 
Talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000