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City visitors bureau starts ambassadors program

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After 40 years in the Kanawha County schools system, Carolyn Burton has time on her hands. She's volunteered the last two summers for FestivALL, and plans to lend a hand at FestivALL Fall in a couple of weeks.

On Tuesday, she joined a small group of likeminded people at the East End Family Resource Center to learn about another opportunity -- Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau's new ambassadors program.

"I just read this blurb in the paper," Burton said. "I thought I might volunteer. I just retired. I was a counselor at Cross Lanes."

Ambassadors can help the CVB in a number of ways, from staffing a welcome table at Yeager Airport to simply encouraging friends and relatives to visit Charleston.

"We need you to get the word out," said Alisa Bailey, the bureau's CEO. "We created the ambassadors program ... to help visitors, whether at a convention or other events in the city. Our goal is to have 200 people in our database."

CVB ambassadors greeted visitors to the Southern Legislative Conference in July, Bailey said.

"Just think: You're getting off the plane at Yeager Airport, someone meets you and helps you find your shuttle. When we had the Southern Legislative Conference, people told us, wow, no one ever did something like this," she said.

"We had people at the chili cook-off. They were taking tickets, telling people where they could go. Sometimes we have gift bags.

"The No. 1 reason people come to Charleston is to visit friends and relatives," Bailey said. "We need you to get on the phone. And when people come to visit, you need to get out and show them around."

The CVB plans to partner with the state in getting hospitality training for its volunteers, Bailey said.

"We'll also do what they call familiarization tours. We might take folks to the Capitol. If they know the place, they can sell it better," she said. "My favorite place is Spring Hill Cemetery. To me it's the most beautiful view of Charleston. We might go to the Clay Center, tour the restaurants around there."

Burton filled out a form to get on the ambassadors' callout list, as did Ralph Williams and Suzi Davis. Retired after a 30-year career with the Division of Corrections, Davis will add the CVB program to other volunteer activities.

Williams called himself involuntarily retired, a victim of cutbacks in the pharmaceutical industry. "I'm tired of sitting at the house doing online job searches," he said. "It gives me another way to volunteer."

For information on the ambassadors program, call Matthew Austin at the Charleston CVB at 304-344-5075. Find and fill out an application by clicking on the Ambassadors tab at the CVB website, http://charlestonwv.com.

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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