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SWEET HOME — It’s been a rough couple of years for the Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce, but on Tuesday new president George Medellin told the City Council that the organization has reorganized and is earning back community trust.

In May, former chamber executive director Katrina Crabtree pleaded guilty to three counts of misdemeanor fraudulent use of the chamber’s credit card. She was sentenced to one year’s probation and 10 days community service. Crabtree used the card at Sweet Home and Lebanon liquor stores, a hair salon and to purchase a toddler chair for a relative.

Two other charges, first-degree theft and felony fraudulent use of a credit card, were dismissed as part of a plea agreement. She was also ordered to pay the chamber $2,500 in restitution.

Also, all of the chamber's financial records were wiped from its computer system, as well as hard copies, and mandatory nonprofit government filings had not been made, resulting in a loss of nonprofit status for the chamber.

Medellin presented the council members with the chamber’s long-term strategic plan that includes six key areas: board development, financials, funding, marketing, events, and purpose/objectives.

“We have put on two successful chamber awards banquets and last year’s Sportsman’s Holiday parade,” he said. “We hosted a Lady’s Tea that raised $1,000 and we have developed a new job description and code of conduct for board members.”

Medellin said the chamber has reached out to work with the Brownsville and Lebanon chambers and has hosted a successful series of monthly business-to-business programs, Business After Hours. The next program will be at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 27, at Sunshine Industries, 1333 Clark Mill Road.

“We need to develop more community events that bring some cash flow back into the chamber,” Medellin said. “And, we need to get our non-profit status back so we can apply for some grant funding.”

Medellin said chamber staff is developing an “Eat, Sleep, Play” marketing campaign to entice tourism in the area.

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The chamber is also working on the upcoming Sportsman’s Holiday, set for July 12-14.

“We are still mending our relationships in the community,” Medellin said.

Councilor James Goble told Medellin that while he supports the chamber’s efforts, he wants to ensure that it represents all Sweet Home businesses when it comes to tourism promotions, not just chamber members.

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The city provides about $15,000 per year for the chamber to operate the community’s tourism and visitor’s center.

Medellin said as part of that effort, the chamber is now open from 8 a.m. until noon on Saturday’s to assist tourists through the summer months.

“We’re better off than we were, but we need to continue to improve,” Councilor Dave Trask said.

“We’re not where we want to be, but we’re definitely moving in the right direction,” Mayor Greg Mahler.

In addition to Medellin, chamber board members are Dave Bauer, vice-president; Mark Opperman, secretary/treasurer; Karla Hogan, Susan Coleman and Marlene Peterson.

To learn more about the Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce, visit https://www.sweethomecoc.com/.

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Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.

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