As longtime Hemet San Jacinto Valley Chamber of Commerce Circle of Influence members, the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians, Soboba Casino Resort and Soboba Foundation were happy to host the organization’s 2021 Holiday Mixer again this year. More than 450 guests wined and dined at the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center on Dec. 8.
With Christmas music played by DJ Mike Nevarez, festive décor throughout the room and gifts via hundreds of raffle prizes, everyone was in a joyful mood throughout the evening. Soboba tribal employee Andrew Vallejos emceed the event and will serve as the Chamber’s incoming chairman in 2022. He said he feels the volunteer position will help bring the community together as Soboba continues to work closely with so many local nonprofits and businesses. Vallejos introduced members of the Soboba Tribal Council and Soboba Foundation who were on hand to help hand out raffle gift baskets.
Cyndi Lemke, who has served as the Chamber’s executive director for the past three years said there are more than 350 businesses and about 150 nonprofits that are active members. She said the primary purpose of the Chamber is to let every member know that they are supported.
“We are behind you!” she said. “People join a Chamber of Commerce for different reasons. Some people want the chance to network with other business and community leaders. Some welcome the publicity that active involvement in Chamber activities can generate for their business. Some people want the opportunity to have a role in community affairs or obtain tools to support their success.”
Lemke assures that the Hemet San Jacinto Valley Chamber of Commerce works hard to help its members achieve all these objectives. The Chamber has a core of active volunteers and staff who are committed to fulfilling the mission of the Chamber and help other members achieve their specific goals.
“These volunteers lead and serve on the key committees and task forces,” she said. “The Chamber’s programs are divided into five major categories: Economic Development, Membership Development, Community Services, Business Training Resources and Events.”
Specific to the recent mixer, Lemke said she loves the joy of the holiday season and the nature of this particular event. “We are there to appreciate each other,” she said. Networking opportunities were abundant as Chamber members interacted with attendees and she assisted Vallejos with hosting.
Sonia Ramos, Founder and CEO of Boxing for Christ, said her nonprofit has been a Chamber member for eight years and she has been an active volunteer during that time. Her program offers professional training for community youth to participate in boxing tournaments, most recently in Arizona, Nevada and Texas. Celebrating its tenth anniversary in January, the organization has helped more than 3,000 youth reach their dreams of becoming successful boxers. “Being part of the Chamber has given us the connections we need for our program,” Ramos said.
Kathy and Vince Conway serve on the board of directors for Carol’s Kitchen, a nonprofit that offers hot dine-in lunches for the community free of charge. It has been serving residents in Beaumont, Banning and Cabazon for 24 years and in April a kitchen was opened in San Jacinto. “Our guests also leave with a bag of extra groceries and can select a few items from some slightly used clothes; all for free,” Kathy Conway said.
The Conways were recently named Beaumont Chamber of Commerce Citizens of the Year. They joined the Hemet San Jacinto Valley Chamber in 2021 and said it has helped them get to know the community.
“We have attended their Network for Businesses meetings where we have made connections. Also, they did a big announcement in the CHAT for our big fundraiser last October as well as an article about who Carol’s Kitchen is and where we are serving our free hot dine-in meals,” Kathy Conway said. “We are looking forward to next year of more events and working with the Chamber to increase our attendance of guests and raising money to be able to keep feeding the hungry.”
She found the Holiday Chamber Mixer to be a beautiful and fun event. “The food and desserts were fabulous,” Conway said. “It was even better because all four of us that attended went home with a gift. It was great to be back out mingling with and chatting with people in a fun and safe environment.”
Photographer Sara Pastrano has been in business for about eight years and found great support from the Chamber since joining about three years ago. “It has been an overall important business move and investment,” said the Hemet resident. “I was very excited to attend this year’s mixer and see old and new faces but my favorite part was seeing everyone cheering for others during the raffles.”
Lemke said the relationships and connections that the Chamber builds with its members is her favorite part. “I love to see our members reach their goals,” she said. “Their goals are our goals because their success is our success.”
After Vallejos wished everyone at the 2021 Holiday Chamber Mixer a safe and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year, Soboba Foundation President Dondi Silvas gave closing remarks. “We really appreciate the partnerships we have with all of you. Many of you volunteered with our turkey dinner giveaway and Unstuff the Bus toy drive events and we thank you for that,” she said. “Happy Holidays and we look forward to seeing you all again in the new year.”
Hemet San Jacinto Valley Chamber of Commerce will be hosting its annual Business Expo at the Hemet Valley Mall on Jan. 26 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The event is open to the public. Please contact Sonia@hsjvc.com for details. For more information about HSJVC, please visit www.hemetsanjacintochamber.com or call 951-658-3211.
Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians