Chamber’s Antique Auto Festival benefits ECHO Clinic
You could call the Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce’s 47th annual Antique Auto Festival a win-win. It brought more than 400 classic rides to town Sept. 8-9, while raising money for Eureka Christian Health Outreach (ECHO) Clinic.
On Wednesday, Sept. 27, the Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce presented ECHO with a check for $2,561. Chamber president Paul Miller said he was honored to donate the money to a nonprofit with such strong local ties.
“It’s a great amount for any nonprofit. Our volunteer group decided to have ECHO be the beneficiary this year, and I think it was great,” Miller said. “We’d like to continue to do more of that with all our events if it’s financially possible. It just shows we’re trying to give back to our community and help where we can.”
Volunteer coordinator Morris Dillow, who helped choose the nonprofit, said ECHO was always his first choice.
“We agreed they do the most good around here, and they probably contribute more to more people than some of the smaller nonprofits,” Dillow said. “Plus, they’ve been nationally known. They were on 20/20. They were on 60 Minutes. People recognize that name when they see that’s the charity you’re giving to.”
ECHO’s board of directors knew they’d be receiving money from the festival, Miller said, but they didn’t know how much until the check presentation last week.
“It was a surprise for them,” Miller said, describing how it felt to donate the money to ECHO. “It’s phenomenal.”
“They were ecstatic,” Dillow added. “They couldn’t believe how much the check was.”
Both ECHO and the chamber recently donated supplies to hurricane victims. Miller said it makes sense for the two groups to work together.
“It’s always good to feel like you’re giving back to a deserving cause, and it’s noticeable when people are giving back,” Miller said. “This relationship started before that, but ECHO continues to give even as they struggle as a nonprofit. They seem to always come up with the money. It’s nice to be able to give them some relief.”
Danyelle Harris, manager of the ECHO Thrift Store, said she felt comforted to hear about the donation. ECHO has been in operation for 11 or 12 years, Harris said, and is no longer in the honeymoon stage.
“Sometimes, support is really heavy on the front end in those first few years, then everybody kind of gets used to it and forgets,” Harris said. “To have a check of that magnitude with local recognition and local support … oh my word, it was a shot in the arm for us. It showed us that we are still valued.”
She continued, “We are all in this together. I know we get the tangible goods. Our community does not let up on that. We’ve got clothing and knick knacks and all that, but to have the money to be able to go toward the medical supplies directly and immediately … that is awesome. It’s wonderful, absolutely wonderful.”
She’s not sure how the money will be used yet, Harris said, but it will certainly help the community.
“It most definitely will be allocated to a community need,” Harris said. “The collaboration and the cooperation with the chamber and the car show … I just love the community connection. I love the community cooperation.”
Dillow said he hopes the festival will be even more successful next year, saying he’s working with the chamber on smoothing out some problems from this year. The festival could double in size, Dillow said, but that doesn’t mean the nonprofit donation would double.
“When you double in size, you have to double the expense,” Dillow said. “These guys don’t work for free, and we can’t say we’re going to give so much until the bottom line comes in. We don’t know how our sponsorships are going to go.”
“We do want to see that donation continue to grow as the event grows,” Miller said. “The expenses will always increase, but we always like to maintain some percentage split between that nonprofit and the chamber.”
In three years, Dillow said, the festival will have its 50th anniversary. This year, he said, some car clubs sent three or four cars to get a feel for the festival. Those clubs have agreed to send the full group next year, Dillow said, with more than 100 cars.
“We hope to be one of the foremost Mid-South car shows,” Dillow said. “That’s the goal.”
The festival is improving, Miller said, despite some of its problems this year.
“Being able to give ECHO the check just shows the progress we’re making on the event as a whole,” Miller said. “After the show, we were getting verbal agreements from some of the participants saying they’re going to commit more participation. We’re excited. Hopefully that builds.”
He continued, “We want to make sure that when we’re doing chamber events, we feel like we’re benefiting the entire community. Not only did ECHO see the benefit of the car show this year, but our businesses saw the benefit of it, too. I think we’re heading on the right track … or, in this case, down the right road.”