By MEGAN HUSSEY
Among many other difficulties, community involvement is a particular challenge in the time of a pandemic, with face to face meetings canceled and events postponed. Yet through its rich regimen of multimedia programs, the Greater Hernando Chamber of Commerce is striving to keep the citizens of this county informed and connected--and with the help of some high profile community members and various forms of technological communication
"People are always on the computer these days, doing business," said Pat Crowley, executive director and CEO of the Greater Hernando Chamber of Commerce. "They need to be able to connect and network online as well."
The chamber's June Monthly Membership Meeting, Wednesday, June 24, featured keynote speaker State Senator and Senate President-Elect Wilton Simpson. This session was conducted virtually, via Go To meeting software.
"We know that Sen. Simpson is going to be offering us a lot of valuable information regarding Florida in the time of COVID," said Crowley in advance of the meeting.
The meeting was sponsored by the Hernando-based K9 Partners for Patriots, a nonprofit organization that has found a novel way to help both veterans dealing with PTSD and homeless animals in search of loving owners.
"This organization, coordinated locally by Jenn Licata, pairs dogs with veterans struggling with these issues," said Crowley.
At the monthly membership meeting, Licata and other K9 Partners representatives discussed the issue of military-based PTSD in recognition of PTSD Awareness Month in the form of a five-minute presentation; a presentation that also served as a preview for another groundbreaking online event.
The K9 Partners for Patriots Virtual Open House, scheduled Saturday, June 27, 11 AM - 2 PM EDT, is a free online event meant to introduce the Hernando community to a valuable service for area vets.
"This organization is giving some much-needed help, as well as spread information about PTSD, which is not talked about," said Licata. "We are a not for profit group that provides trained dogs free of charge to veterans who need them."
The open house will give guests a virtual peek inside the K9 Partners for Patriots program and facility, which is built and outfitted to accommodate veteran visitors--from rubber-laden floors to simulation rooms that allow participants to learn how to interact with their service dogs in everyday situations.
The open house also will feature videos of participating veterans and informational sessions regarding every aspect of canine PTSD therapy.
"We offer extensive, ongoing training for the veteran and the dog," said Licata.
By offering virtual events, Licata hopes to spread the word about the service that "saves not one life, but two."
Register for The K9 Partners for Patriots Virtual Open House at https://donate.k9partnersforpatriots.com/event/national-ptsd-awareness-day/e285696
Also on the virtual front, Crowley says that the Greater Hernando Chamber of Commerce has a podcast in the works; and is continuing to broadcast its first virtual outreach: the Chamber Connects radio broadcast; a show broadcast on the airwaves noon each Monday on WWJB 1450 AM, 103.9 FM, and 92.3 FM.
"We've been doing this show for the last 16 years," said Crowley. "It's all about the small businesses in Hernando."
Each week, Chamber Connects features interviews with representatives of Chamber businesses.
"I put the show in the guests' hands, allowing them to set the topics," Crowley said.
And on social media, the Chamber Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/hernandocountychamber) also features interviews with the businesspeople of Hernando County.
"All of these programs are geared toward telling people about the products and services available here in Hernando County," said Crowley. "This is our modern version of the phonebook."