Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Skip to content

This commentary was featured in the Venice Gondolier on Saturday, June 22, 2024.

Kathy Lehner, President and CEO

Kathy Lehner

President & CEO
Venice Area Chamber of Commerce

The Venice Area Chamber of Commerce is a 501(c)(6) organization, and we also have the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation, a 501(c)(3).

The distinct difference between 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(6) organizations is in their underlying purposes. The goal of most 501(c)(3) organizations is charitable, while 501(c)(6) organizations are mainly business or membership nonprofits.

As you know, the purpose of the Chamber is to promote business growth and success. The Foundation has educational purposes, including knowledge and understanding of economics, matters of public concern, human resources and other subjects related to improving efficiencies and accelerating the quality of economic growth and opportunities.

The Venice Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation supports three programs of education.

The flagship program is Leadership Venice: Geared towards adults, this program runs eight months, one full day a month starting in February and graduating in October. Each program day encompasses a theme, including Venice History, Health & Human Services, Government, Economic Development, Community Awareness and Arts & Culture.

The days are filled with tours and presentations as each participant learns about the area and creates lasting friendships with their class members. The class is also tasked with completing a class project, leaving behind their legacy while enhancing the community.

Past class projects include the “Quest” (a series of scavenger hunts around Venice), a sensory board and landscaping at InStride, a mural and yard improvements at Family Promise of South Sarasota County, a GAGA pit at Mundy Park, and a tribute to first responders located on the median west of Venice City Hall.

The Teen Leadership program follows the same format as the adult program, differing only that they meet for a half day once a month. Participation is open to all high school-age students.

The themed days are designed to provide an opportunity to meet with community leaders and visit businesses not usually open to visitors. Students pay a minimal tuition fee of $50 for the program but receive a refund of the fee if they are not absent or arrive late or leave early for all the class days.

All About Venice is a program open to area residents. Participants meet for one hour, one morning a week for six weeks. Community leaders are invited to share information about their business or organization. The popular series is especially of interest to new residents of the area because they can make instant connections with local leaders.

We wouldn’t have our Leadership programs if it wasn’t for the generosity and trust of our program founders. Leadership Venice Founders are Boone Law Firm, C.J. Fishman, and Robinson, Gruters & Roberts, P.A. Teen Leadership Founders are Affordable Golf Cars of Venice, Appliance Specialists, Classic Creations in Diamonds & Gold/ Nau-T-Girl Jewelry, and Ledbetter Law Group.

These local businesses have already stepped up and do so every time to make our community a better place.

Leadership programs are a window to our community of what, why, and how it operates to carry on. By sharing the ins and outs with the participants that go through the program, the hope is they will step up to take the lead on something they find an interest in to ultimately make the Venice Area an even better place to live, work and play.

If you are interested in any of these programs, please feel free to contact Barbara Hines, Leadership Venice Director, at 941-800-1482.