Elizabeth Knell worked in marketing and branding for New York City-based companies for more than 25 years before she moved to Hastings from Brooklyn, started two businesses, and joined the Rivertowns Chamber of Commerce (RCC).
“I joined the Chamber as a way of networking and building relationships and found it to be very helpful,” she said last month. “Then along came the pandemic in March and everything went quiet and the Chamber stayed dormant until July. I wanted to find a way to help the Chamber keep going amid such upheaval. So I volunteered my services and put together a plan for doing things virtually.”
Knell’s offer to volunteer was made at the right time, according to Nick Campbell, the president of the chamber and owner of Insurance-on-Hudson.
“While our in-person monthly meetings had to stop due to Covid-19, we still wanted to be in a position to help our members in any way we could,” Campbell said. “This meant going virtual and using social media. Liz jumped right in and volunteered to coordinate.”
The Chamber, comprised of members from Hastings, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley, and Irvington, named Knell its first executive director, effective Oct. 1.
Campbell and the RCC’s board had talked about the need for hiring an executive director.
“In a way, the pandemic forced our hand,” he said. “Eventually, when things get back to normal, we want this to be a full-time position and the executive director will be responsible for running a storefront operation, where we can sell maps and conduct other business. Hopefully we can focus on having a physical location in 2021.”
Campbell continued, “While we have brought Liz on as a consultant she is already responsible for organizing our Zoom meetings, and putting out our newsletters and email blasts, plus she is so good with social media like Facebook and Instagram.”
The timing of the offer was likewise fortuitous for Knell, who in 2019 started her businesses Go From There Coaching and Go Love NY Curated Day Trips.
“It was perfect for me, mutually beneficial, and I love to stay busy,” Knell said. “I could help support the Chamber and spread the word about how businesses are doing and find ways to help those that need assistance during this time. My main goal is to reinvigorate our members even though we can’t meet in person.”
Knell relocated to Hastings more than two years ago to be closer to family. Her sister-in-law, Christy Knell, is a member of the Dobbs Ferry Board of Trustees and co-founder and CEO of HudCo, the co-working space in Dobbs Ferry.
While the RCC continues to add new members (but is down to about 180 from a high of 210 pre-pandemic, according to Campbell), fundraising activities have been put on hold. Knell highlighted the impact of the Community Table Partnership and the involvement of Chamber vice president Michelle Adams.
The Westchester County-sponsored partnership awarded the RCC an $80,000 grant to enable eight Rivertowns restaurants to provide meals or vouchers to the Dobbs Ferry and Hastings food pantries, Cabrini Immigrant Services in Dobbs Ferry, and the Greenburgh Housing Authority.
The Chamber’s monthly Zoom meetings have been successful, according to Campbell.
“We started with five members streaming in and that has grown to 20,” he said. “At present, we are featuring a mayor from each village, and that is a popular addition.
“It is just so great that Liz’s work has enabled RCC to continue to support every member, and be a center of information where businesses can find out about PP [paycheck protection] loans and other grants,” he concluded.
The next meeting is this Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 6:30 p.m., with Irvington Mayor Brian Smith. To register, visit rivertownschamberofcommerce.com