Chamber bids farewell to Hannah Stanley

By Jana E. Pye, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

In two short years, Hannah Stanley dusted off the Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce and gave it a much-needed boost of enthusiasm. Membership increased, a new website was designed, a video was produced, and the inaugural 4th of July event Freedom Fest at Darlington Raceway wildly surpassed attendance goals.

“We were hoping for 3 – 6,000 and ended up with about 14,000,” said Stanley. “We are really proud of bringing that many people into Darlington.”

According to Chamber Board member Jannie Lathan, the board is sad to lose Stanley, who accepted a position as Sales and Marketing Director of the new Hampton Inn in Hartsville.
“It is our great sadness to lose Hannah,” said Lathan. “But, we are so very proud of her. She has been a tremendous asset to the Chamber, and we are confident that we will find just the right replacement to continue the excellence she has created for our members.”

Hannah Stanley

Stanley grew up in nearby Hartsville, graduating from Hartsville High School and later received her Political Science degree from Clemson University.

After accepting her first job out of college as the director of the Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce in August of 2013, she worked independently in the office.

“We’ve added 30 new members since I started,” said Stanley. “I am proud of how the perception of the Chamber has changed over the last two years, as well as our working relationship with other entities that all have the same goal- to grow Darlington. We improved our relationship with the DDRA (Darlington Downtown Revitalization Association) and the City of Darlington.”

The connections to the Darlington Raceway, including Freedom Fest, have been another bonus for the Chamber.

“All the events that Chip Wile and his team have brought to the racetrack have made it alive again, and exciting,” said Stanley. “We kind of take it for granted, that it is here in Darlington, but it’s a nationally known NASCAR track. It’s exciting to have some cool events come back there.”

Stanley is also especially proud of the website redesign, the smart phone app for the Chamber (available on iTunes), and the video produced to highlight Darlington.

“The video shows how homey Darlington is,” she said. “We worked with Seth Johnson (Interactive Media Developer at Coker College) that shot this video for us that highlights the best parts of Darlington which I am so proud of. It shows how the community works together, how they love each other, how everybody invested in what is going on here – and what is going on in Darlington’s future.”

“When I got here we didn’t have anything to hand to new members,” continued Stanley. “We now have many programs put into place and working on a new directory now. We have lots of added benefits for our members.”

Another highlight was a women’s luncheon hosted as a joint collaboration with the Greater Hartsville and the Greater Florence Area Chambers of Commerce.
“The relationship with the three area chambers was another great relationship. We had over 400 women show up.”

The most proud moment she experienced was Freedom Fest. “I can remember getting home after midnight,” she recalled. “I didn’t even make it in the door. Before I decided to take a rest on the concrete outside m y door and go through my Facebook posts of congratulations from people in the community, and gratitude that we were able to give them something a free event to attend of that magnitude. That really stands out The City of Darlington as the presenting sponsor took a big risk, and had a lot of faith in us to really pull something awesome off. I was really excited we were able to do that.

I have a hard time gauging how many people were actually coming in,” she remembered. “Later I caught up with Chip Wile and he said, ‘Hannah, there are over 10,000 people here.’ They flooded in side by side. It’s a really neat time to come together as something as American as Darlington Raceway for July 4th.”

When asked if she will be melancholy to leave, Stanley responded quickly.

“Absolutely! I have loved my time here,” she said. “My hope for the future of this Chamber is that it thrives. The whole goal is to promote Darlington, and promote our members. That is what all of our fundraisers are for, to be able to do things for them. I’ve enjoyed the relationship building since I have been here, and enjoyed the people I have met,” said Stanley. “Especially with the City of Darlington. Specifically, Howard Garland and Lisa Rock have been so useful to me and my role here and how we can work together.”
Her perception of the county has changed after accepting this job.

“I love Hartsville and grew up in Hartsville,” said Stanley. “With that comes a little bit of loyalty when I first started, but I have learned to love the other parts of Darlington County and we have a big voice at the Chamber to promote not only Darlington, but Society Hill and Lamar. We have great people, beautiful sites, and there is more to see than just Hartsville. I grew up being a champion for the city of Hartsville but I am really excited to know be a champion for the county as a whole.

“The things I learned here will enhance me in my new job,” she continued. “The people I have met along the way here. I will be able to really sing Darlington’s praises now that I know so much more about it. I’ve been able to work closely with a lot of businesses and I’m excited to continue those relationships on and forward.”

“For the majority of my time here, I was the only employee,” said Stanley. “Right now I have an assistant, but for the majority of the time it was just me. Without the support of my strong board and my executive board, this Chamber would not have been able to accomplish all we have accomplished. We have a wide variety of skill sets on our board and they have all been helpful to me, teaching and helping me to get things done. I wrote down on paper that looked really nice and they helped me get into practice. We have a great board, and I am very appreciative of all of them.”

Growing up, she really didn’t know much about the role of the Chamber. “I really didn’t know much about it, I knew it had something to do with businesses in town,” said Stanley “I realize now it’s about local businesses supporting local businesses. That is how you grow a community by everybody supporting everyone’s businesses. We give people an opportunity to do that, network with each other, and learn new skill sets with our ‘Lunch and Learn’ luncheons, to support each other in the community.”

I hate to go when there seems to be so much prosperity on the horizon for Darlington,” said Stanley. “But, I am looking forward to see how it grows in the next several years.”
Stanley’s last day at the Chamber will be Monday, July 6th to make sure all is in order for her replacement. “I’ve been working really hard over the last week to leave everything very nicely packaged for the next person that comes in here. So they know where everything is, how to run everything. And I hope the relationship we’ve been able to build with a lot of partners we’ve built with the community will continue. We are not in competition. We are all in it for the same goal.”

The doors will remain open for the public with the assistant will continue until a new director is hired.

The new Hampton Inn hotel will be open on July 10.

Author: Duane Childers

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