“Every day I learn something new,” said Cinnamon Paula, who came on board as director of the Garberville-Redway Area Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 12, following in the footsteps of former director Dee Way, who is now human resources manager for the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District.
Paula can be found answering questions and assisting visitors at the chamber office on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays - volunteers staff the office on Wednesdays and Fridays - but that’s only the beginning of her responsibilities.
Organizing the membership, managing the website, producing a monthly newsletter, and helping to organize the many events and projects sponsored by the chamber, are among Paula’s principal tasks.
Paula grew up in Cazadero in western Sonoma County. “There were lots of redwoods, lots of rain, and it was very rural. You can see why I came here,” she said.
She attended El Molino High School in Sonoma and Santa Rosa Junior College, and worked as a waitress and in retail sales. While still in her twenties, Paula moved to the Anderson Valley (west of Cloverdale), where she met her husband, Brian Paula.
”And then life happened, and it was time for a change,” Paula said. As the Anderson Valley filled up with vineyards, land became too expensive for a young family starting out.
The Paulas came to Southern Humboldt because it was similar to the places they already loved.
Brian Paula is a truck driver, equipment operator, and “my faithful follower” in her volunteer projects on behalf of children in the community. “He’s very involved with our kids,” she added. “We’re the type of family that if you get one, you get all of us. We’re a team.”
Paula is perhaps best known for her advocacy for children and families, and particularly for helping to organize the protest against the loss of rural school transportation funds in January 2012.
As the mother of four boys, Paula has been involved in many youth organizations and accumulated a fund of information about kids’ activities. People kept calling her with questions, so she decided to put it all on a website, www.southernhumboldtkids.com, which includes school bus schedules, an activities calendar, contact information for all schools in the area, a bulletin board, practical health tips, birthday party ideas, and more.
Paula continued to work, waitressing and bartending at the Benbow Inn, for six years, until just before her fourth son was born. More recently she waitressed at the Woodrose Café but found out she couldn’t physically handle the work the way she used to.
After the chamber job had been open for a while, a friend suggested that Paula apply for it.
”What excites me the most [about the job] is that I’m in a position to make a positive impact on the whole community,” Paula said.
Her experience in setting up and managing her own website is a big help. “In these days it’s important to have an online presence,” said Paula, explaining that she is also planning to make more use of the chamber’s Facebook page to keep people up-to-date on activities and events.
Paula also enjoys talking to visitors. The most common question she hears is, “How do I get to the Avenue of the Giants?” followed by “Is there a public bathroom?”
Visitors also ask what else there is to see “besides redwoods,” and Paula steers them toward Shelter Cove and local attractions like the Benbow Inn.
She also gets complaints about the homeless and transient population on the streets, and her standard reply is, “We’re very aware of the problem and we’re looking for solutions collectively as a community.” If people have further questions or comments, she gives them contact information for the local sheriff’s substation and supervisor Estelle Fennell.
Paula walks through town each morning before opening the chamber office at 10 a.m. to see what’s going on around town and check street conditions.
She works closely with Brian St. Clair, the Merchants Guild employee who sweeps sidewalks and picks up trash in town. In addition to sweeping the sidewalks regularly, he’ll soon be pressure-washing them. “With no rain for a long time, the dirt is building up,” Paula said.
Her immediate plans are to make the chamber office more inviting with live plants and large wall maps of California, the North Coast, and Southern Humboldt. Additionally, she would like to develop a community calendar with flyers for events on the calendar that will hang on the windows in the lobby.
The lobby is opened in the morning by another tenant in the building and closed when he leaves in the evening, so visitors can come in to look at the displays and get brochures, and so anyone can leave her a note For more information about the Garberville-Redway Area Chamber of Commerce, see their website, www.garberville.org, or call them at 923-2613.
REDWOOD TIMES PHOTO BY VIRGINIA GRAZIANI
Cinnamon Paula, the new director of the Garberville-Redway Area Chamber of Commerce, plans to make the lobby of the Chamber office even more informative and visitor-friendly with maps and an event calendar.