Inspiration can hit you when you least expect it. This happened to me while on the phone discussing plans for the Sister City visit. It was a high-pressure conversation but it was good pressure.

Kalaful Williams and I were talking in general about involving the Chamber in an event for the Sister City guests. Out of nowhere, a concept popped out of my mouth. It was “LOCAL HANDS” and it took shape quickly.

I wish I could claim this was a well thought-out, strategic premise emanating from my role as Executive Director of the Chamber. It was more of an impulse triggered by my commitment to the local business community.

“LOCAL HANDS” connected Tuskegee and Macon County artisans to the South Berwick Sister City delegation. Kalaful had already secured the Tusk-Mac CDC for a Meet & Greet on Sunday, December 3rd.

“LOCAL HANDS” was the right idea at the right time. We invited Moses Weaver to bring bottles of his Energy H20 water, which is purified by nature as it flows deep below his family’s property in Shorter.

We included a wine tasting featuring selections from Whippoorwill Vineyards in Notasulga. “LOCAL HANDS” included Cookie Jones, a pastry connoisseur, and Lenora Goode, who operates a catering business with additional concierge services. Vinaida Robnett and her hand-made angel dolls came to mind.

We thought of my husband, Noah, and agreed he should share his magazines that promote tourism in Tuskegee and Macon County. And we engaged Dr. Ronald McDowell — a fine artist whose hands are a national treasure.

We stopped the list here for a good reason. Common sense dictated that we engage a manageable number of “LOCAL HANDS,” even though there are a lot more people in the community who also do wonderful things with their hands.

The hard reality is that the space at the CDC is limited. We had to think about everybody, especially the Sister City delegation since they were the primary reason for this experience.

We also had to accommodate community residents who responded to an open invitation to attend the Meet & Greet. The end result exceeded expectations — packed room, electrifying energy and networking on steroids.

But this concept can extend beyond the Sister City motivation. How about applying the principle to this holiday season? Let’s spend money with “LOCAL HANDS” as we shop for gifts and plan our menus.

We can stock up on locally sourced water and wine as we prepare for Kwanzaa and Christmas celebrations. We can set our tables with food and desserts from “LOCAL HANDS.”

The Chamber Website is still under construction but you can find these and other “LOCAL HANDS” at in the business directory.

It was great meeting our new friends from Maine — and I thank them for inspiring a new concept that could enhance local BUSINESS MATTERS.

Karin Hopkins is executive director of the Tuskegee Area Chamber of Commerce and also co- founder of ECHOboom, a digital media platform. Contact her at

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