03/19/06 — Mount Olive re-meets new chamber chief

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Mount Olive re-meets new chamber chief

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 19, 2006 2:01 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The welcomes started coming early for new chamber president Gena Knode, who was introduced to the community during an open house last week at the chamber office in downtown Mount Olive.

Chamber board member Sandy Facello said she is pleased Ms. Knode agreed to be president.

"She's contributed so much to Mount Olive, and I'm really glad," Mrs. Facello said.

When the chamber board decided in January to hire her as the new president, Ms. Knode had already been volunteering with the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce every year since 1997.

"That was my first pickle festival," she said. She has since added many more to her list.

And that longtime association with the community has meant that her welcome to her new job at the chamber has been more like a reunion with old friends.

"There have been a lot of people here today," she said Wednesday. "But no, I haven't met anybody I didn't already know."

Ms. Knode designed this year's North Carolina Pickle Festival T-shirt, which sports "pickle people" celebrating with fireworks.

The chamber is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its pickle festival this year. That special year made Ms. Knode think of another place just recently marking a milestone anniversary -- Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

"When you think of anniversaries and magic, you think of the Magic Kingdom and fireworks," she said.

Former chamber president Patti O'Donoghue said she hasn't gotten many calls from Ms. Knode since she has volunteered so many years.

She said Ms. Knode already knows the not so well-kept secret in Mount Olive.

"And besides, who really runs the chamber?" she said with a smile, pointing at the chamber's secretary, Linda Outlaw, who has been with the chamber since 1990 -- three years before Ms. O'Donoghue became president. "She's the glue, the knowledge. While we're out doing our thing, she's here in the office making it work."

Ms. Knode said her debut included a steady flow of visitors, one of whom, Mount Olive resident, Charles Harrell, brought her flowers.