Collaboration Defines Shafer

July 15, 2005
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MUSKEGON — Pat Shafer has played many roles during her 40 years in the Muskegon area.

As a teacher, she loved working with children, discovering their different learning styles and finding new ways to reach them. Now she’s still looking to match people with their learning needs in her many roles with the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce.

When Shafer, director of programs at the chamber, starts to plan an event or program for the chamber, she asks three questions.

“What do people want to know, who can deliver the message and who would want to attend?” she said. “You’re matching the people with the information.”

Shafer, 61, also is the executive director of Leadership West Michigan and staff training and development coordinator for the West Michigan Chamber Coalition. Shafer came to work for the chamber in 2000 after working as a teacher, an adult education program director, and then director of student services and director of corporate services for Baker College.

“I love the varied things that I get to do and the opportunity it gives me out in the community, and the relationships,” Shafer said of her position with the chamber. “You just have to be passionate about what you do.”

Shafer said chamber President Cindy Larsen approached her about coming to work at the chamber as membership director.

“Pat is very professional and she had a great reputation in the community for working with businesses large and small. I just knew she’d be a perfect fit for the chamber,” Larsen said.

Shafer said she enjoys helping people gain more business experience, knowledge and relationships through the chamber.

“Matching people and helping them to develop relationships makes this a better place to live, work and play,” she said.

Larsen said Shafer has helped develop all the programs and events for MACC.

“She is very dedicated to the mission of regional growth,” she said. “It would be very difficult for us to find another person as dedicated as Pat Shafer.”

Of all the events she has developed and directed, Shafer said she is most proud of the Lakeshore Business Expo, in cooperation with the Grand Haven, Ferrysburg, Spring Lake Chamber of Commerce.

“It really helps hone our partnership as well as bringing the two communities together at a single event,” she said.

But the event Shafer said she looks forward to most is the Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

“You just wish you could recognize everyone,” she said.

It’s important to salute the innovative people that take risks, Shafer said.

“Think of the products and services that we’ve got from those entrepreneurial people,” she said. “I’m always humbled by the people I meet and the things that they’ve done.”

In her roles with the West Michigan Chamber Coalition and Leadership West Michigan, Larsen said Shafer has helped the chambers move toward achieving their goals by serving as a liaison between the four chambers.

“She has really accelerated the development of our regional activities,” Larsen said. “She understands the inner workings of chamber organizations and their dependence on volunteers.”

Shafer said she helps the four presidents of the Holland, Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Muskegon chambers by making them accountable for their goals, ideas and plans.

“I’m trying to formalize those ‘shoulds’ and make them happen,” she said.

As executive director of Leadership West Michigan, Shafer works with community members to help acquaint them with the region and its needs.

“It’s an educational process,” she said.

Participants are chosen through an admissions process to represent a cross section of the community. An eight-session program helps them understand the complexity of the region and its needs, and helps them gain contacts in other areas of the region. Shafer said the program is a chance for people to make a difference in the region and community.

As someone who has lived most of her life in the area, Shafer understands the importance of working together as a region. Shafer grew up in Grand Rapids, graduated from Ottawa Hills High School and attended Central Michigan University before getting married and working as a teacher in Spring Lake and North Muskegon. She stopped teaching to raise her children, David, 35, and Kim, 33, before becoming the director of the Reeths-Puffer Community Education program.

After working in adult education, Shafer became Baker College’s director of student services, where she said she got her first taste of working collaboratively while the college formed its initiatives and coordinated with the other campuses.

“I worked a lot with the campus in Owasso and the campus in Flint,” she said.

Shafer said joining forces and determining best practices is the way for people to be more successful.

“People together do it better,” she said.

When her position at the college was eliminated, she became director of corporate services, which she credits with building her business relationships in the Muskegon area and leading to her position with the chamber.

“It was the opportunity for me to get out in the community more and really get to know people,” she said.

Shafer said she grew to understand businesses and their needs, which is crucial to a chamber.

“A chamber has to understand the needs of businesses to serve it,” she said.

When Shafer is not working with the chamber — which she said is rare — she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren who live in Brighton.

“I work way too hard to have any hobbies,” she said.

Shafer said the closest activity she has to a hobby is the walking she does five times a week. But even while walking, her mind is on Muskegon.

“I come up with a lot of creative ideas when I walk,” she said.

While walking, Shafer said she also enjoys the serenity and natural beauty that the area has to offer.

“You can’t ask for a more beautiful place.”           

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