THREE OAKS — The Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce held a Virtual Annual Meeting on October 27, streamed on its public Facebook page.

Member Services Director Kimberlee Wendt said the Chamber is celebrating its 40-year anniversary in 2021.

She noted that the Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce has grown from "a small band of determined business owners in a restaurant" to "a vibrant, active group of 450-plus" in the past four decades.

"Please watch for member and public announcements in the media and on our social media for upcoming special commemorations."

Chamber Board President Jen Thompson said everyone involved with the Chamber have had to make major changed to person and professional lives this year.

"I think it goes without saying that this has been a truly unprecedented year as the COVID-19 pandemic has exploded upon us … nearly every aspect of our lives was turned upside-down."

Thompson said she has been proud of and inspired by board members and Chamber staff for showing an amazing capacity to think creatively and come up with effective strategies "when the future is completely uncertain and planning is next to impossible, and to change direction literally on a dime so we can continue to serve our members in new ways in a completely new environment."

Thompson said she is excited about what the future holds for Harbor Country.

"We have lots of new residents now, and they're year-round residents. People are realizing that they can work remotely and that they do have the ability to take advantage of the quieter, more relaxed pace here … and the friendly small-town vibe that makes Harbor Country a great place to live and raise a family."

She said this presents a great opportunity to bolster the off-season economy and create an more favorable business environment all year long.

Wendt said the Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce's plans for the coming year include a virtual holiday mixer on Friday, Dec. 4, and will future SOS webinars.

She said the Chamber has maintained a community COVID information page that lists open businesses, beaches, dining options road construction information, direct links to state, county and other resources.

Wendt welcomed new members Kadlec Architecture and Design; Box Factory for the Arts; Brandon D. Smith from Edward Jones; and The Detail Guy LLC.

She also talked about the upcoming Harbor Country Guide, the Undiscovered Season marketing campaign, and member benefits of the Chamber's website.

Newly appointed Chamber Board directors and officers introduced and inducted during the meeting are: David McNabb (of Edward Jones), Eric Neagu (Antero Group LLC) and Erika Milovich (Bluefish Vacation Rentals). Returning Directors continuing their roles on the board (and taking their oaths of office) are: President Jen Thompson (Chikaming Open Lands); Vice President and acting Treasurer Maggie Martin (MAK Salon); Secretary John Natsis (Tom Hemingway Re/Max Harbor Country Union Pier); and Kurt Hauseman (New Buffalo Inn and Spa, Lake Homes Realty).

Recognized during the meeting for their contributions were departing Chamber Board members: Danette Narregan (Chicago Title); Dick Sauerman (Teachers Credit Union); Allie Mojsiejenko (formerly Four Winds Casino); and retiring officers Stephen Throw (Bantam Brook Farm) and Bill Reynolds (New Buffalo Bill’s).

Thompson also gave credit to staff members Kimberlee Wendt and Emily Hojara for putting in an incredible amount of hard work during the pandemic.

"You guys are really, truly rock stars."

At the end of the virtual Annual Meeting Wendt thanked the organization's founding members "for having the foresight to form the Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce."

"Harbor Country is a known brand enjoying regional positive effects now that are building groundwork to meet the upward momentum that is expected to impact our businesses, organizations and communities in the next year."

The Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce is a 501c(6) corporation, established in 1981 to represent the eight communities of Michiana, Grand Beach, New Buffalo, Union Pier, Lakeside, Harbert, Sawyer and Three Oaks. The Chamber works to advocate for business in the area and region to make Harbor Country® a premier place to stay, play, create and make home.

A 2016 celebration of the Chamber's 35th anniversary held inside the Vickers Theatre featured the airing of a 1987 promotional video created for the then fledgling organization to promote Harbor Country as “truly a land for all seasons.”

Each of Harbor Country’s eight communities had its moment in the spotlight.

Michiana was described as “rustic, sentimental and back to nature.”

Introduced as a “close-knit resort community with a rich and colorful past” was Grand Beach.

New Buffalo was profiled as “being known for its beautiful beaches, restaurants, shops and great fishing facilities.”

Moving up the coast, Union Pier was said to have “long been one of the Midwest’s liveliest summer resorts” that was “enjoying an exciting renaissance with a diverse ethnic tradition” in the mid-1980s.

“Just up the road is the quiet resort known as Lakeside, with its many beautiful estates, relaxed lifestyle and intellectual and artistic pursuits.”

Harbert was described as “one of Harbor Country’s best-kept secrets” that has “its own special claim to fame.”

“Poet Carl Sandburg lived in this secluded cottage (which was briefly shown) for 15 of his most productive literary years.”

The timber industry and the railroad were credited with helping Sawyer spring to life “back in the 1850s.”

“Today Sawyer is characterized by working farms and fertile vineyards and some of the most desirable real estate in Harbor Country.”

The announcement “And finally, welcome to the inland village of Three Oaks” was met with cheers from the Vickers Theatre audience.

“Originally incorporated in 1867, Three Oaks retains much of its original character.”

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