Walking into the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce, the doors are heavy and difficult to push but Lisa Cooley sticks her head out of her office and greets all guests with a smile.
She does everything with a smile.
She sends e-mails with a smile, takes meeting minutes with a smile, runs copies with a smile, and makes coffee with a smile.
Lisa Cooley came from Natchitoches, La., to Cleveland and began working at the chamber in November after her husband received the head football coaching position at Delta State.
Before many had even finished their morning coffee, Lisa was sitting at a large table with three graphic designers to discuss new pamphlets and information booklets to give to new members of the chamber.
This particular conversation was right up Lisa's alley because the moment someone asks how to get involved or what are the benefits of volunteering, that smile gets even bigger and the excitement radiates off of her as she tells her story.
"I’ve always been very involved in the communities in which I have resided. I think it’s important that you make an effort to get involved. There are several reasons why it’s important to become involved in your community. It helps you buy in — I love Cleveland even more because of the people I have met through working at the chamber.
"When you’re personally invested in your community, it makes you appreciate it that much more. Also, I love making a difference. We all know people who sit around and complain about things all of the time … I hate that.
"As cliché as it sounds, I really love the quote from Ghandi, 'You must be the change you want to see in the world.' If people are upset that there is litter on Hwy. 61, volunteer and help us clean it up. If you want more events to take place in Cleveland, volunteer at the chamber and help us plan more. You get the picture," she said.
As she chats with the graphic designers about what she imagines the look of the pamphlets to be, the wind picks up outside and starts to howl. The leaves hit the door and spin in miniature leaf tornados making it more difficult to hear one another in the boardroom.
Lisa laughs at the noise and stops for a minute to enjoy it before going back to make suggestions about photos to be in the pamphlets.
"The chamber just does so many things in different ways and we need to show all of that — how active we are," she said.
Lisa ushered the graphic designers out the door with another huge smile then sat down at her desk.
"I try to send out a quick e-mail to say something like 'thanks for coming' or 'it was great meeting you' and some reminders. If I don't do it I'll forget but it also helps me to have those e-mails on file to remember things," she said as she typed.
Her office looked like something straight from a Pinterest board with organizer files lining a back table and a filing cabinet next to it.
On the main wall a small table is lined with three white and gold owls one for hear no evil, one for speak no evil, and one for see no evil. On either side of the owls are clear lamps with a painting centered on the wall.
"I need a caffeine pickup!" Lisa says and grins as she moved to a drawer and pulls out a energy drink mix.
"I do spin and classes at Delta State in the morning so about this time I get super tired." She mixes her drink and it's no surprise that it's bright and pink.
Next on Lisa's agenda was an executive meeting for Team Cleveland.
"This will be my first time in the meeting because the last one fell on a holiday. So right after this meeting we will turn around and have a Team Cleveland meeting with the full board," she explained.
Before the meeting began Lisa began running around the chamber quickly making copies of notes for the board members as well as setting up lunch on the back tables in the board room with the help of Aimee Moorhead, director or marketing and communications at the chamber.
By the time members began to arrive everything was set up and prepared and Lisa sat down to take notes and give a staff report to the board.
When the time came for her to give her report she brought up Keep Cleveland Beautiful and explained several plans she had in mind.
She said she is working with Keep Mississippi Beautiful to have a major kick-off and cleanup in the downtown area and that she would be meeting with the group to better plan what direction to go in with the cleanup.
"It could be as simple as them showing us how to landscape an area," she explained.
The board listened attentively because Lisa's enthusiasm was contagious.
"I’m so excited about the community cleanup. Cleveland is already an attractive place but we should never get complacent. We should always look for ways to improve. The downtown cleanup project will be the first of many — we hope it sets the tone for the work Keep Cleveland Beautiful will do. As we approach the opening of the Grammy Museum, we need to really think about things that visitors can do while in Cleveland. The more tours, public art, and historical information we can provide, the longer we will have their attention. We want for tourists to come to Cleveland for the Grammy Museum and stay and spend time and money here in Cleveland. Cleveland is more than a one-stop shop and we want to really focus on developing an inventory for travelers to access," she said.
After the meetings and reporting to the boards, Lisa went back to her office to send out another set of e-mails.
When asked about her what she enjoys most about working at the chamber, she once again smiled.
"This one is tough … there are a lot of great things about working at the chamber. If I had to narrow it down, I would say that I have really enjoyed getting to meet and work with the people of Cleveland. There are a lot of great things about Cleveland but the people here are by far the best part. I’ve met so many wonderful and helpful people … people here are doers. If they want something done, they do it. I love that!
"It makes my job so much easier. I can’t tell you how many phone calls we receive from people who want to volunteer and get involved in the community. It’s so refreshing. Another thing I love about the chamber is the work that we do. You’ll never get rich working for a chamber or a municipality but the work you do is so rewarding. Our endeavors help people, businesses and our community. A lot of people don’t realize what a chamber does or how much value it adds to communities. We’ve been working over the last couple of months to add projects and services that will increase the ‘Quality of Place’ in Cleveland. Whether its offering workshops that teach small business owners how to use social media, organizing community cleanups, or planning festivals that get people into Cleveland — we are constantly working to make Cleveland better."
Whether you see her on the DSU football field with her husband or around Cleveland doing volunteer work, Lisa will flash you a smile and be sure to share with you any information about bettering Cleveland and how she hopes to do so.