Make us your home page
Instagram

Chamber leader's call to service started in childhood

Melanie Morrison's 4- and 5-year-old daughters enjoy role playing at home, but instead of "bank" or "school," they play "chamber."

Mommy, we need some scissors to do a ribbon cutting in front of the Barbie house.

Clearly, the girls have come to appreciate what mom does as the executive director of the Ruskin Chamber of Commerce. So have a lot of other people.

In her 17 months on the job, Morrison, 31, has brought new members to the chamber while continuing the charitable efforts that helped her serve two terms as the honorary mayor of Apollo Beach.

Earlier this month, she helped coordinate a fundraiser for a teenager who was beaten and raped outside the Bloomingdale library. It raised $20,000 in less than 4 1/2 hours. Last year, she sparked a community effort to help a family of 10 who were struggling in a 980-square-foot trailer.

After Monday's chamber luncheon that featured Jairek Robbins, son of motivational speaker Tony Robbins, I spoke to Morrison about her role with the chamber and what motivates her to be so charitable.

Pull up a chair and join us. ERNEST: What drives you to be so charitable?

MELANIE: When I was a little girl, we lived with our grandparents — my mom, my sisters and I — and we have a lady who came and cleaned their house. She was very, very poor. We would go and cash cans in for money to give to her. I remember always feeling so good when we had bags and bags of cans at the end of the week. I couldn't believe families resorted to that type of thing to have money. I've always wanted to help people as much as possible. So now you help, and you give others the opportunity to help.

I realize there are so many other sources you can tap into, so many other people who want to make a financial contribution or some sort of donation but they don't know where to go. It's as if they're waiting for someone. How did you end up with the chamber?

I was just handling the marketing for my husband's business (Freedom Boat Club) in Apollo Beach, and I was a stay-at-home mom. I loved doing it, but I always had to focus on that one business and I tend to get bored just looking at one thing. Now, rather than having to focus on just marketing the boat club, I have over 330 members and I can focus on all the different ways to help their businesses. What's the biggest challenge for the chamber right now?

A challenge would be the current market, but the attitude we've taken here at the chamber is, "It is what it is." We're not going to sit back and cut our events and cut everything. Really, this is our time to increase what we do to give our members increased exposure. Do you see the chamber playing a role in bringing more businesses, more life to what we refer to as downtown Ruskin?

Absolutely. I got down here, and it seemed like a quiet place with a lot of potential. In the last year and a half, the growth has been unbelievable. We have a beautiful new high school, Lennard High, a new Hillsborough Community College campus, Saint Leo University and Webster College. South Shore Corporate Park has broken ground and it's going to be larger than Sabal Park in Tampa. There's so much undeveloped land in Ruskin and so much growth potential. What do you say to people who worry about Ruskin growing too much, too fast?

I grew up in Brandon so I know exactly what that means. I grew up when it was Carey Cattle Co. and I graduated from Bloomingdale High (Class of '95), so I know what that's like. The approach we take is to keep all of our members involved and encourage them to be involved when there are meetings. Former (Tampa) Mayor Dick Greco came and spoke at a lunch last year and he said, "Ruskin is growing whether you want it to or not. Be a part of that growth to help protect and manage it." You seem to be a natural at networking and dealing with people. Where does that come from?

I don't know, but I've never been the quiet one who's at a loss for words. In high school, I was always very involved in the leadership classes. I always thought I would be a teacher, but I've always wanted to help people. With this, I can help businesses, I can help individuals and I can help the community. DESSERT: A postscript from Ernest

Morrison noted that the Ruskin, Sun City Center and Riverview chambers are exploring the possibility of merging, an idea that has previously been rejected. The three chambers, along with the Apollo Beach chamber, will have a joint luncheon on Sept. 23 at the Showman's Association, 6915 Riverview Drive.

Ernest Hooper also writes a column for the Tampa Bay section. Reach him at hooper@sptimes.com or 226-3406.

Chamber leader's call to service started in childhood 08/28/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 2:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers, thousands of concealed weapons holders

    Corporate

    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people and information about thousands of concealed weapons holders were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson …

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  2. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?

    Energy

    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  3. Citigroup agrees to pay nearly $100 million fine for Mexican subsidiary

    Banking

    NEW YORK — Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering.

    Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering. 
[Associated Press file photo]

  4. Goodbye Tampa Bay Express, hello Tampa Bay Next; but toll lanes aren't going anywhere

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Express is dead.

    The name, that is. But its replacement — Tampa Bay Next — includes several of the same projects once proposed for TBX, such as the express toll lanes on the rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced that it was renaming its Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan will now be known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. DOT officials say there are still re-evaluating the most controversial aspect of the old TBX plan: spend $6 billion to add 90 miles of toll roads to bay area highways - Interstates 4,75 and 275 - that are currently free of tolls. But TBN will keep the plan to add express toll lanes to the rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay lands on Forbes 2017 ranking of best places for young professionals

    Working Life

    Consider this one more notch in the belt of Tampa Bay starting to win serious attention from millennials as a place to live and build a career.

    Mike Griffin is a senior managing director in Tampa for Savills Studley Occupier Services, which provides integrated real estate services. He is also chairman for 2017 of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the first of the next generation of leadership emerging in this metro market. [Courtesy of Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce]