If you happen to be driving down Main Street in Newton and see individuals out on the sidewalks in bright, orange vests, you may assume the work going in is some sort of mandatory community service. On the contrary, those people gathered are likely with the Newton Chamber of Commerce and there of their own volition — or, at least, that of Executive Director Pam Stevens.
Stevens has recently taken up beautifying downtown as a personal crusade, specifically in weeding the sidewalks lining downtown businesses. On more than one occasion now, Stevens and staff have been out and working to clean up various areas downtown — with more organized efforts planned in the future.
"I want to try to create some pride in our downtown. I'm very proud of my downtown, but I wasn't proud the way it looked. I'm wearing out my staff members because the last time we were the only four out there doing it," Stevens said. "We still have more work to do, but at least it looks better than it did."
As the initiative begins to catch on, Stevens said she is seeing more local business owners join in the efforts and other areas around town looking a little more pristine recently. However, that push is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all that Stevens tries to do for the community — a community she has been a part of for 33 years.
Keeping involved with the community comes with the territory as Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, a role Stevens has held since 2013. Even before she took that position on, she noted the job was constantly evolving and now requires her to be more hands-on (with only one full-time staff member), something she is more than happy to do.
"I'm always wanting to do more. Sometimes they have to hold me back here at the chamber," Stevens said. "If I had more hours in the day, I'd probably be out pulling weeds in the evening."
Confessing that she did in fact do just that, cleaning up the sidewalks prior to the Harvey County Fair parade last weekend, it's clear to see Stevens wears her community pride on her sleeve. Whether through community events (i.e. Taste of Newton), providing for current chamber members (with tools like the new E-Community initiative) or assisting new business owners, Stevens is more than willing to give help where she can.
Outside of her work with the chamber, Stevens has been a member of several auxiliary groups, volunteered at the hospital, is involved with the Newton Rotary Club and serves on the boards for the Newton YMCA and Carriage Factory Art Gallery, all part of a commitment to "service above self." That mentality was one instilled by her parents and fostered by her high school home economic teacher.
"She kind of nurtured me along and really pushed me to take a lot of leadership roles, and I think that really helped me for what I do today," Stevens said.
Taking that with her, Stevens now tries to be an example herself, for both her family and her staff at the chamber — with her actions clearly having rubbed off.
While chamber employees have followed the lead of Stevens in her recent weeding initiative, participation has not been required. Rather, staff have been inspired by Stevens' actions, with Director of Marketing and Communications Courtney Critchfield calling Stevens her "hero."
Gratifying as the type of work Stevens does can be, she admitted it is work ethic that keeps her driven more than anything — a work ethic she brings to whatever service she is doing for the Newton community.
"Whatever you give, you will definitely receive back, but I don't ever look at it that way," Stevens said. "I just like to help people; that's in my nature that I've always been willing to do whatever I could to help somebody."