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Chamber readies for holidays, football

Members of the Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce met Sept. 5 for the monthly board of directors meeting. Coming events, holidays and the September Everyday Hero were on the agenda.

Promotion chairman Bill Ryker told of Chamber activities of the past month, and reminded of upcoming events.

In August, the Chamber sponsored the annual new teacher luncheon for 21 new teachers and three principals. Many of the new staff are from out of town, and they learned much about the area, including the origin of the Jackrabbit mascot, Ryker said.

Ryker reminded members of the upcoming 9/11 memorial at the Flag Plaza. The Plaza, Ryker said, was dedicated in 2002 in the memory of the people who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001. The memorial has been held annually ever since.

This year, the Little Rock Air Force Base Honor Guard, the Lonoke High School band, AP history class, and the Army JrROTC will take part, as will the sheriff’s office, Lonoke police and fire department, Ryker said.

“Everyone is invited, it is something that we just cannot forget happened,” he said.

Upcoming events include the tenth annual Shoot for Fun, Oct. 26, at Remington Gun Club. This is a family event with free food and many prizes, Ryker said.

Also, the 28th Lonoke Chamber of Commerce Merry Thanks will be Nov. 24, Ryker said. “This is to thank people for shopping at Lonoke, and to get ready for Christmas,” he said.

Santa Claus will tour the city in the antique fire truck and sponsoring businesses will have open houses between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Drawings for prizes will be at the Chamber and at individual businesses,” Ryker said.

Two of the original businesses to start Merry Thanks remain, M&M Florist and Lyons Drug Store, Ryker said. “That’s going back a lot of years.”

The Dec. 5 Chamber meeting will be Lonoke Assembly of God for the annual Christmas program, Ryker said. There will be chili by Bill Cunningham, and the singers from Lonoke Primary School will perform.

“The engine that drives all these events and activities is the Chamber members themselves … You folks are the ones that make this happen … I am so proud of what we do in our community, and I know that you have got to be proud of what goes on here in our Chamber,” Ryker said.

Chamber director John Garner said the meal was provided by Steve Cardinal and daughter Ashley at no charge to the Chamber. Proceeds from the charge for the meal will be applied to the balance owed on the Chamber’s LED marquee. “We still owe $17,000 on it,” Garner said.

“[Cardinal] wanted to do something that would not only benefit the Chamber, but also the community,” Garner said. Cardinal plans to do the same for two more meetings, Garner said.

Yes, Waffle House is going to come, Garner said. The last report is that the construction crew is to come to Lonoke in October; the land is purchased and the permit issued, he said.

The new Lonoke Interstate 40 Interchange is on track and ahead of schedule, but the season of bad weather lies ahead, Garner said.

Chamber President Leanne Rich announced Jerri Clark as the Chamber Everyday Hero for September. Clark was nominated by Julia Shoemaker.

Shoemaker said Clark has been exemplary teacher here entire career. Several times, Clark has faced the incredible task of teaching a child who is battling cancer. “She has been a heroic role model, helping students to cope with their classmates having to endure.”

Beyond the caring she has taught her class, several of her students shaved their heads so their classmate enduring chemotherapy would not feel alone. The entire class walked the Caregiver Laps for the 2013 Relay for Life.

Clark teaches her students to be strong, caring adults even in the worst situations, Schumaker wrote.

“I know as a teacher, I am supposed to be doing the teaching … to think a nine-year-old child taught my class more than I will ever learn in my 31 years of teaching … There are a lot of teachers out there who are touching lives,” Clark said.

Lonoke football coach Doug Bost thanked the community and businesses for supporting all school sports programs. Without the community, sports would not happen, he said.

The High School football program now has a full staff, with three assistant coaches, and even na athletic trainer. The trainer has ended the idea of standing to the side with an injury.

“We are excited. We are ready. We have been practicing since Aug. 2.”

A session at team camps gave them the chance to go against some the top teams in other divisions. “We banged heads with those guys, and we had some success,” Bost said.

“[The team] knows that if they can do it against the best in the state, then we can come do it in our conference.”

Jr High Coach Darrick Lowery said he had taken over as coach this summer, but had to do it alone. His concern of possible problems with the changeover were mistaken, he said.

“[The team] handled it exactly as I expected them to; they put their heads down and went to work … never questioned anything,” he said.

Volleyball coach Laura Park told of the team’s preparations for the coming season. They, too, had gone to team camps during the summer, but deliberately chose camps to play teams from much larger schools. “You don’t go to camps to win … you don’t get better that way. The pre-season is about getting better,” she said.

Park repeated the thanks for Lonoke’s “tremendous” community support. So many of the businesses have supported the volleyball team as sponsors, she said.

“It means so much to the girls … so many times they feel overlooked … You all supporting them makes them feel all the more proud,” she said.

“You don’t know how much the community means to our program, to our school,” Hark said.

Until the Gina Cox Center opened, the team had no “home,” Park said. “Now the girls have their own locker and a greater sense of belonging,” she said.

It was the support of the community, supporting the Cox Center, that made it possible, Park said.

Janie Sexton, for the Lonoke Jackrabbit Athletic Booster Club, told of the Purple Pride membership program. A fee of $200 includes club membership and a banner. The fee also includes two season passes to all home athletic events, she said.

The banners are purple, 4 feet by three feet, with white lettering. The banners are attached to the football field fence, and will be displayed prior to the first football game and taken down after the last home game.

The Jackrabbit Athletic Booster Club supports all Lonoke athletic programs and all teams, she said.

Sexton said that the Club has purchased pitching machines for baseball and softball, a chute for football, jump boxes for boys and girls basketball, score table for the new gym and a breakaway banner for cheerleaders.

“We can’t do this without your support,” Sexton said.

Athletic Booster Club meetings are held at 7 p.m., on the first Monday of each month, in the new Lonoke High School Cafeteria at the Gina Cox Center.

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