Yarmouth resident takes reins at Freeport chamber

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FREEPORT — Leading an organization has been Shawna Chigro-Rogers’ career goal for years, so a chance to become executive director of the Chamber of Commerce was one she couldn’t pass up.

Chigro-Rogers, of Yarmouth, replaced Stephanie Petkers, who had served as executive director since July 2015.

In an Aug. 25 email, chamber President Michelle Barker said, “(The chamber is) excited to be working with (Chigro-Rogers). She has a great background, lots of energy and passion (and) we know our Chamber will thrive under her direction.”

After just a week in the position, Chigro-Rogers said she is settling in and has been encouraged by the kindness and support she’s been greeted with in the process.

“The (board) and members of the community have been so welcoming,” Chigro-Rogers said. “I’m just so excited to be here.”

A Colorado native, Chigro-Rogers graduated from the University of Colorado in 1994 with an undergraduate degree in journalism. Since then, she has worked for the Red Cross, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and, most recently, served as director of donor engagement at the United Way in Bath.

“I’ve been in nonprofit management for most of my career. … My work has always been about community involvement and connecting people,” Chigro-Rogers said.

She has been involved with the Yarmouth Education Foundation for five years, and said her post as president on the foundation is fulfilling on a personal level, rather than a professional one. YEF is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the overall educational experience of students in the Yarmouth School Department.

Now, Chigro-Rogers said, she looks forward to a new challenge, serving a chamber that formed only seven years ago.

According to its Facebook page, the Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce focuses on economic development, planning, business counseling and education, government relations, providing group purchasing opportunities, and simply connecting businesses with each other.

“My immediate goal for the chamber is to start looking towards their 10th anniversary and really celebrating that,” Chigro-Rogers said. “In the meantime, I just plan on looking at some new ways of keeping the chamber engaged in the community and supporting our members.”

Chigro-Rogers is also planning her first event as executive director. The 2nd Annual Golf Ball Drop will be held at Gritty’s on Sept. 15, when 1,500 numbered golf balls will be dropped from a hot air balloon onto a target on the ground. The participant with the number of the golf ball that lands closest to the target’s bulls-eye will win a $2,500 prize.

“We’re pushing sales for that now,” Chigro-Rogers said. “It’s looking like it’ll be a great event.”

She also hopes to implement a new program called “Coffee and Conversation,” where community members are invited biweekly to the chamber to introduce themselves to the town, workshop ideas for events, or simply learn more about their community.

“I know when we were looking at homes in Yarmouth, I went to the Yarmouth Chamber (of Commerce) and looked for resources,” Chigro-Rogers said.

Chigro-Rogers moved to Westbrook in 2001 and fell in love with the tight-knit communities she found in Maine. She, her husband and three kids moved to Yarmouth in 2007.

“Since we’re sister communities, I’m (in Freeport) all of the time,” she said. “Being familiar with Freeport was attractive to the position, (but I’m still) learning so much about it.”

Chigro-Rogers also hopes to forge relationships with business communities in Durham and Pownal that “people may not know about.”

“I want the chamber to be a resource for not just our members, but for residents, prospective residents, and prospective business owners,” Chigro-Rogers said. “You can’t do business with people you don’t know. It’s all about building relationships.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Shawna Chigro-Rogers of Yarmouth is the new executive director of the Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce.