I had the pleasure of sitting down with Lynn Caccavallo, the President/CEO of the Cary-Grove Area Chamber of Commerce, in the chamber’s new office space in Cary. We had a great conversation about the greater role the chamber plays within the community, some of the many events the chamber puts on every year and some coming up yet this year, Lynn’s background and how she started down her path with the chamber, and more.
This past summer, the Cary-Grove Area Chamber of Commerce moved its office to a new location, about a half-mile from its old one. Of course, short-distance moves can be just as hectic or more so than long-distance moves.
Rather than an official “move,” short-distance moves often become multiple moving events broken out over several days. While still settling in, you’d never know it by looking around. Of course, when you run a lean operation coordinating a nearly endless list of events, you can’t afford a lot of downtime from moving.
Address: 210 Crystal St Ste A, Cary, IL 60013
Lynn tells me that the office is fairly comparable in size to the space they were in before, though it feels very different due to the configuration. The new space is broken up between two floors, unlike the single level they had before, and doesn’t have the large, shared entry and reception area, so it feels smaller. While they may have given up the large reception area, they still have a conference room that is available to chamber members.
Best of all though may be that they are still located adjacent to Northwest Hwy which provides constant visible reinforcement within the community as well as easy accessibility.
Serving Two Audiences
Unless you are a business owner or work within the marketing department of a local business, I’m guessing that the chamber of commerce might be a bit of a mystery. Perhaps you are aware of some of the events that are put on by the chamber, but I bet there are other things they do that you had no idea about. This is no surprise because the chamber plays many roles to meet the various needs within the community.
Perhaps a bit simplistic, but I’d best sum it up by saying that the role of the chamber is to provide opportunities for community engagement for the betterment of the community.
Cary and Fox River Grove Communities
The first thought that may come to mind when you think of the chamber is the “commerce” part. While the businesses, and other related local organizations, are certainly a core part of the chamber, let’s start with the greater public community.
With the help of the membership, the Cary-Grove Chamber provides a number of great benefits to the community. They are able to provide referrals to community members seeking services and include a member directory on their website that is available to the public. They publish an annual printed community guide that includes a membership directory and community resources, which is mailed out to Cary and Fox River Grove residents in January of each year.
While those are valuable community services, the Cary-Grove Chamber is perhaps most known for the large community events that they put on every year. Most notable of these would be the summer Cary Cruise Nights weekly car show, the Halloween Walks in both Cary and Fox River Grove, the Merry Cary Parade & Festival, and the Miss Cary-Grove Business Leadership Pageant.
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Business, Professional, & Non-profit Community
This audience may be the one that the chamber actively connects with the most, but without the general community above, much of the reason for that connection wouldn’t exist. Even within the business side, the relationship between the chamber and the businesses is very much a collaborative one.
The chamber serves as a connecting point for its members. The chamber hosts many member events to help members network, connect, and even collaborate together, including Chamber On Tap happy hours, the Annual Dinner, Annual Golf Outing, Ribbon Cuttings, various committees for all of the events, providing introductions between members, and more.
The Cary-Grove Chamber also helps members by hosting educational webinars, sending out a weekly members’ email newsletter, providing an online members’ community, offering notary services, publishing and distributing the community guide, offering that complimentary conference room rental, and much more.
But coming full circle, none of those community events would be possible without the chamber membership. Not only do chamber members serve on the event committees and help coordinate those events with the chamber staff, but those events often rely on greater chamber membership participation. Members help through sponsorships, buying advertising spots, and are often directly involved, handing out candy at Halloween Walks and providing entrees for parades.
Together, with the chamber serving as the connecting point, the businesses and the community connect together for the common good.
A Lean & Efficient Operation
At the heart of the Cary-Grove Chamber is a very lean operation. Anyone who has worked for or with non-profits knows that these organizations are often the epitome of lean and mean. Small staff, small budget, everyone wearing multiple hats…the list goes on. But the Cary-Grove Chamber sets an amazing example of this with one full-time position and two part-time positions.
A key function of any chamber is maintaining, growing, and serving the membership. The relationship between staff and membership is crucial though because, as we see, much of the success of the many community events the chamber puts on relies on the involvement of the members.
Lynn celebrated her 6th year anniversary with the chamber this past June. She said that, six years ago, there were around 350 chamber members, and this year they are currently at 543. Membership is, of course, always an ebb and flow, but clearly, the ship is heading in the right direction. And that may be one of the best demonstrations of the strong relationship that has been built between the chamber, its membership, and the community at large. This kind of growth doesn’t happen without having good relationships in place.
Lynn chalks a lot of that up to the type of community that is Cary and Fox River Grove. While it may be a suburban area, it has that small-town feel. This may be in part due to the compact area and blending of the two villages. But Lynn also feels that much of this comes down to the spirit of the community. With a single combined high school, everyone comes together to support it. When community events are happening, everyone comes out for them. And when a business or someone is struggling in the community, everyone rallies behind them to help. Lynn knows that firsthand.
Being a small-town girl drew Lynn and her late husband to Cary in 1990, while looking for a community to start raising their family in. Living in Arlington Heights at the time, they wanted to find a more affordable and family-friendly area and they found their way to Cary.
Life takes unexpected turns and in 2008 her late husband was diagnosed with cancer and passed away six months later. During that time, Lynn experienced the small town feel personally as the entire community rallied around them to support their family.
Finding herself widowed at 45 with four children to raise, what next? She saw an ad for a part-time membership coordinator at the Cary-Grove Chamber. Knowing a lot of people already in town and being involved through sports and volunteering, she thought this may be the perfect fit!
Lynn worked in that role for several years and departed for a full-time position in the private sector. A few months passed and an opening at the Chamber became available for a full-time Associate Director so she leaped at the chance to return to the job she loved! As luck would have it several years later the position of President opened at the Chamber and Lynn interviewed for the job and started in the role of President in June of 2016!
During this time, she remarried, combining her four children with her new husband Michael’s two children. Making for a crazy and fun household! Their children are all now grown and adults themselves. Lynn’s feet remain firmly planted in Cary and the Chamber of Commerce!
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As a person, Lynn is positive and resilient. She sees all of her life events, both wonderful and devastating, as part of her path. They are what got her to where she is today, made her who she is today, and framed the perspectives through which she sees things.
No doubt, it is what fuels her efforts with the chamber, serving in a role that allows her to give back to the community she loves. She also took these experiences and helped to run a grief support group for many years with Willow Creek in South Barrington and then launched one at Willow Creek in Crystal Lake.
Much of the focus of the chamber revolves around events. Those events might be member-focused networking opportunities like the Chamber on Tap and Multi-Chamber Mixers, or more community-focused such as Cruise Nights, Halloween Walks, and Merry Cary Parade. But there are also content-driven activities, like publishing the 60-page Community Guide, seminars on PPP during COVID, or even collecting giveaway items and materials from members for the library’s welcome bags.
Lynn says they are open to trying new things, but with a fairly full yearlong calendar already and limited resources, new things often mean dropping something else. Right now, they’ve been fortunate that most events are so well received that it would be hard to pick something to give up.
Cary Cruise Nights (Experiencing Cary Cruise Nights) just ended for the summer. That’s a big event to put on simply because it happens every week. And this year, rather than peaking early in June, each week kept getting bigger all the way up to the last one. And in the middle of all that they were planning for and holding the annual golf outing in August.
They just launched a Women’s Networking Group, which was a great success. And now it’s almost October which means planning for the Halloween Walks in both Cary and Fox River Grove, which may see 1,000 or so kids across the two locations…you just never know when it comes to events. November will feature the Wine Down Wednesday ladies’ night out event.
For December, they are already working on a Women’s Breakfast Summit in collaboration with the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills and Huntley Chambers and of course, there is the Merry Cary Parade and Festival (Soaking Up…and In…The Merry Cary Holiday Parade) to kick the month off. And then after a bit of a reprieve in January, the round of events starts all over again!
In between all of these big events though, the calendar is full of lots and lots of other events from Chamber Universities, Business Roundtables, Lunches, Mixers, Ribbon Cutting, Ladies Bunco, and more!
At the end of the day…some of which may be very long days indeed…it all comes back to the community. The chamber thrives when the community thrives. When the community thrives, the businesses and organizations within the community thrive. It’s all interconnected and the chamber is here to help provide these connecting points and opportunities to connect.
For Lynn, this is what defines success. Continuing to grow the chamber and seeing it thrive and seeing the community thrive is what it’s all about. “I’m proud of the success that we’ve had. That growth to me says everything about our organization and the people that are behind me…the staff, Board of Directors, and the members who continue to support and believe in our mission. And the people, so many people, who come up and say, ‘Thank you for doing this. Thank you, we loved it so much. This is so awesome.’ I enjoy my job. It’s unique and wonderful to see it.”
My husband and I love living in a riverfront community. My favorite thing…it’s really the community itself. It’s such a supportive community and working with the businesses in the community, from large to small, they’re so supportive of the community.Lynn’s McHenry County Favorites
So the next time you are out enjoying an event in the Cary or Fox River Grove area, take a close look. There’s a chance it might be thanks to the tireless efforts of the Cary-Grove Area Chamber of Commerce and its members. And if you see Lynn, be sure to say “hi” or “thank you,” it will make her day and I suspect, there’s a chance it just might make your day a little better too.
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If you’ve been thinking about joining the Cary-Grove Area Chamber of Commerce, then be sure to check out this special new member discount offer I’m able to provide.