Introducing Kirby, the Chamber dog

Kirby is being trained to become a certified assistance dog.

If you have visited the Chamber building in the last month, you may have noticed the pitter patter of little paws or been greeted by requests for belly rubs by Kirby, a 15-week old female black lab. While more and more workplaces are becoming pet-friendly, Kirby is no ordinary pup because she is being trained to become an assistance dog.

Kirby is owned by KSDS Assistance Dogs Inc., located in Washington, KS. The nonprofit organization is fully accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) and provides guide dogs for the visually impaired, service dogs to assist individuals with physical disabilities, and facility dogs that assist professionals in the field of education, counseling, health care, retirement or the legal system.

Kirby once received an invitation to City Hall to meet Mayor Longwell.

Volunteers known as “Puppy Raisers” are an integral part of the KSDS mission. The Puppy Raiser is responsible for teaching the puppy basic obedience, house and public manners, and socialization. Chamber staff member Courtney Sendall and her husband Jeremy are Kirby’s Puppy Raisers, and key to her socialization is accompanying her humans wherever they go (hence coming to work at the Chamber each day). So really, the entire Chamber staff is contributing to her raising.

When Kirby reaches four months of age, she will receive her official “Assistance Dog In Training” vest. If you see her when she is wearing this vest, we ask that you refrain from petting her because wearing the vest is her signal that she is on duty.

When Kirby reaches two years of age, she will return to KSDS for a year of formal training, after which she will be matched will an individual in need of an assistance dog.

So for the next two years, Kirby is will be an official part of your Chamber team. Will it be difficult to give her back? Absolutely. But will it be worth it knowing that she is changing someone’s life? Absolutely.

Even though she is a future assistance dog, she is also still a puppy, so we appreciate your patience if you hear her barks while you’re at our building for a meeting or if she doesn’t display proper manners when she meets you. We’re working on it and she looks forward to meeting you.

Note: A fully-trained KSDS dog is valued at $25,000 and is provided to individuals at no cost, and there is currently a three year waiting list due to a shortage of Puppy Raisers. KSDS reports that 90 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to the support and placement of assistance dogs. Learn more at ksds.org.

Tram Ngo joins Chamber Government Relations team

Tram Ngo has joined the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce as the Government Relations Project Manager. In her new position, Tram will coordinate the logistics of Government Relations events and sub-committees, in addition to assisting with advocacy-related research and community outreach efforts.

A Dean’s Scholar who recently graduated from Wichita State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, marketing and management, she previously worked as a human resources coordinator at INVISTA, a subsidiary of Koch Industries.

Toni Porter, Director of Government Relations, said the skills that Tram brings to the team will serve her well in the role. “Tram’s work and volunteer experience, as well as her commitment to the Wichita community, have quickly made her a key addition to the Chamber team. I am confident she will play a key role in providing an exceptional service experience to our members, public officials and community partners. We’re pleased to have her on board.”

Her first day at the Chamber was May 30. Please help us welcome Tram to the Chamber team!

Samia Joins Chamber Team

Gabri Samia joined the Chamber’s Community Advancement team this month.

Gabri Samia recently joined the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce as the Manager of Community Advancement. In her new position Samia will plan and execute several of the Chamber’s unique leadership development programs, including:  Leadership Wichita, City-to-City Leadership visits and Wichita Insight.

Samia’s role involves interacting with numerous community leaders and assisting with the Chamber’s inclusion and diversity programming. “Gabri really enjoys working with people and building community,” said Suzy Finn, Community Advancement Director for the Chamber. “She’s enthusiastic about working with others who want to continually improve Wichita and the region.”

A graduate of Wichita State University, Samia earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and minored in English. One of her past experiences includes teaching in South Korea. Her first day with the Chamber was May 9. She replaces Stef Flores who recently relocated to the Denver area.

Please help us welcome Gabri to your Chamber team.

Rita Malinauskas permanently joins Chamber staff

Malinauskas, Rita_webWe are pleased to announce that Rita Malinauskas has permanently joined the Chamber staff as a Coordinator of Business Services, working with Angie Elliott and Rachel Groene. Rita was hired on a temporary basis in April 2015 and has since become a valuable part of our Business Services team.

“Rita has shown an excellent level of service to our members. Her warm manner and attention to detail were instrumental to the success of major events such as Small Business Awards, the Golf Classic and Exposure,” Director of Business Services Angie Elliott said. “She is skilled at connecting members to our services and to each other, and we’re pleased to have her on board in a permanent role.

Rita earned her BS in Business Administration from the University of Missouri, and she most recently worked at Butler Community College in Andover.

Groene Joins Chamber and Elliott Assumes New Title and Role

This week the Chamber welcomes Rachel Groene (pronounced Gree’nee) as the Manager of Business Services. A graduate of Wichita State University, Groene brings more than five years of marketing and brand experience to her new role.

Rachel Groene is the Chamber's newest team member.

Rachel Groene is the Chamber’s newest team member.

Chamber Director of Business Services, Angie Elliott, hired Rachel after an intensive search for someone with relationship management and special event experience. Elliott said, “We had many qualified candidates who were interested in being part of the Chamber team. We were impressed with Rachel’s accomplishments, experience and professionalism. We’re confident that our members will enjoy working with her and that she’ll help us continue to provide value-added programming and services for our members.”

Angie Elliott was recently promoted from the Manager of Business Services to the Director of Business Services by Chamber President and CEO, Gary Plummer. Elliott started her Chamber career in 2008, and is a graduate of the Institute for Organizational Management (IOM), a professional development program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Elliott holds a BA in Business/Marketing from Friends University and an MEd in Sports Administration from Wichita State University.

Angie Elliott

Angie Elliott has been promoted to Director of Business Services.

Plummer commented on the recent staff changes. “We’ve already been congratulated on Rachel’s hire by some of our members who have worked with her during her career. And I’m very pleased that Angie will now be able to take on more responsibilities in her Director role. She’s a team player, strategic thinker, and an excellent resource manager. She’s well respected by our Board, staff and volunteers for her vision, leadership abilities and management skills.”

Please help us congratulate Angie on her promotion and welcome Rachel to our Chamber team.

GWEDC Staff Changes

Debra Teufel

Debra Teufel

Teufel Departs Wichita
Debra Teufel has promoted Wichita’s workforce and positive business environment across the continent and around the globe since joining the organization more than seven years ago. She’s represented the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC) in her travels to Norway, Spain, Germany, France, England, the Netherlands and Canada. Hosting international representatives who wanted a closer look at Wichita’s capabilities has also been part of her duties. Officials from Japan, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Belgium, Brazil and Denmark have benefitted from her extensive knowledge about the local economy and the large network she’s developed in her role as GWEDC’s Vice President of Business Development.

Debra has recently accepted a position as Director of Public/Private Partnerships for Price College of Business at the University of Oklahoma. We’ll miss her passionate advocacy for our community, region and state when she departs Wichita later this month. Please join us in wishing her all the best as she begins her new role on September 1.

Craig Bay

Craig Bay

Bay Joins GWEDC
Wichitan Craig Bay joined GWEDC last week as the Director of Special Projects. He brings 18 years of project and process management, customer relationship management, and leadership team experience from NetApp Corporation to his new role. Bay joins GWEDC’s Nick Campbell in supporting the Blueprint for Regional Economic Growth (BREG). Follow this link to learn more about the eight regional BREG cluster teams and how they are defining specific actions to increase their economic strength in south central Kansas.

Welcome Toni Porter!

Toni Porter is already well-known to many of our Chamber members who will be pleased to learn that she has joined our organization as a part-time Project Manager on the Government Relations staff. Toni recently left her full-time position as District Director for

Toni Porter brings a wealth of experience to her Government Relations position with the Chamber.

Toni Porter brings a wealth of experience to her Government Relations position with the Chamber.

Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo’s organization to explore new career opportunities. She is temporarily filling a Chamber vacancy left on the team with Jaime Dupy’s promotion earlier this month to Manager of Investor Relations.

Toni has enjoyed the smooth transition to her new position. She said, “I couldn’t have felt more welcomed on my first day at the Chamber. Since the Chamber works so closely with elected officials, I was already familiar with many of the staff and had visited the offices on many occasions. It’s a great opportunity to utilize my business background and my government experience.” Earlier in her career Toni worked in corporate communications and in the real estate market.

Barby Jobe, Vice President of Government Relations for the Chamber, is pleased to be working with someone who has so much expertise to share with Chamber members and staff.  “Because of her extensive network, Toni was able to begin contributing to our advocacy work on her first day at the Chamber. I’ve always been impressed with her professionalism and we are thrilled to have an opportunity to work with her.”

Stephanie Warren joins the Chamber as VP of Membership & Business Services

Stephanie Warren

Stephanie Warren

Stephanie Warren joins the Chamber today, Tuesday, September 2, as the Chamber’s Vice President of Membership & Business Services.

Warren holds a Master’s Degree in Communications and has spent the majority of her career generating revenue for non-profit organizations through membership growth and retention. She’s also experienced in developing non-dues revenue programs, sales management, strategic planning, and government and community relations. Much of Warren’s experience comes from organizations she’s worked with in the Kansas City area and in California. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Wichita State University and returned to Wichita several years ago. She most recently served on the South Wichita YMCA Advisory Board and as an account executive for Entercom Radio Group.

Gary Plummer, President and CEO of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, indicated that an extensive search was conducted for this vital leadership role. “We’ve combined the leadership roles for the Membership and the Business Services areas with this position. Both are critical to the Chamber’s success. In addition to the knowledge she needs for this position, Stephanie brings 16 years of experience as both a staff leader and as a Board Member with two chambers.

“It’s very gratifying to return to my hometown with skills and experience gained in other markets to benefit Wichita,” Warren said. “I was immediately impressed by the professional staff and the quality and scope of the programming they offer their members. This is a first class Chamber and I’m honored to join it.”

YPW hires Program & Marketing Manager

Meg Foreman

Meg Foreman

Meg Foreman has joined Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW) as the Program & Marketing Manager within the Wichita Metro Chamber. Her responsibilities will include overseeing YPW’s social media channels, working with volunteers, and supporting the executive director.

She was most recently at Eastminster Presbyterian Church as their associate director of communications and spent two years as the communications coordinator at Creative Oklahoma in Oklahoma City before that. Her experience includes working with volunteers, graphic design, social media marketing, and grant writing.

We are excited to have her on our team – welcome, Meg!

Beth Shelton joins GWEDC

Beth Shelton
Beth Shelton has joined the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition as the Manager of Business Development. She has more than five years of economic development experience and was most recently employed as the Director of Economic Development for the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce. She begins her duties on Monday, February 10.

Her primary responsibilities will be the retention and expansion of our existing industries by organizing more than 100 formal visitations to discuss how the community could help them grow. Shelton will also be a member of the team responsible for national and international marketing to generate leads for recruiting new companies.   

A graduate of Friends University and the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute, Shelton was the Economic Development Coordinator for GWEDC from 2008 to 2013.

“We are very excited to welcome Beth back to our team,” said GWEDC President Tim Chase. “We know she did a great job at her post in Salina, which will make her invaluable to GWEDC and the Chamber’s efforts.”