Here to Serve
Rhonda Wiles Finds Her Footing as Brownsburg Chamber of Commerce President
Nothing feels better than when you find your passion and purpose in life. Just ask Rhonda Wiles, the new president of the Brownsburg Chamber of Commerce, who has seamlessly settled into her new role throughout the past few months.
Wiles first got involved in Hendricks County when she worked as marketing director for the State Bank of Lizton, a job she held for 15 years before working for Angie’s List and subsequently at a local lumber company. Two years ago her father, who had been battling Parkinson’s disease, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When he passed away in April of 2019, Wiles took some time off for emotional healing. After a while, however, she was ready to rejoin the workforce and felt strongly about staying in the county.
Last November, while attending a Hendricks County business luncheon for women, three individuals approached her to ask if she planned to apply for the Brownsburg Chamber of Commerce director position that had become available.
A self-proclaimed people person, Wiles had to admit that it seemed like a good fit. After all, she’s gotten to know many community members through the years. Those relationships proved valuable as she transitioned into the role in January.
“I didn’t know how things had been done in the past, so I took it as an opportunity to watch what was going on with the culture of the Chamber and grow it from there,” Wiles says.
Wiles found that many members were eager for change. Some craved interaction beyond just the monthly luncheon. Many voiced that there should be a partnership between the town and the Chamber of Commerce, which Wiles says currently has 270 members. Therefore, one of the first things Wiles did after taking the position was meet with the new town manager, the assistant manager and economic development representatives.
“We said, ‘What’s in the past is in the past. None of us were involved with that and we would all like to move forward and help one another out,’” says Wiles, who asked the economic development manager to speak at a Chamber luncheon. “I’m big about utilizing my members’ knowledge and skills.”
Wiles also began to seek the opinions of those not in the Chamber, and ask what kept them from joining. Some confided that they didn’t feel there was an opportunity for them, so she specifically asked what they would do differently. Soon, collaborations began to form.
“Communication is key,” Wiles says. “People don’t want to have to wait until the luncheon to find out what’s going on in the community.”
This is partly why the Chamber reactivated its Facebook page. Increasing the Chamber’s online presence has helped to keep locals safely engaged, while following social distancing guidelines due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When Wiles first started at the Chamber, she was in need of some tech help, and she reconnected with a tech-savvy woman she met years ago at a Relay for Life event.
“She set up my graphics, my Eventbrite account and my Zoom account,” Wiles says. “She even hosted my Zoom account for me until I got comfortable with how to do it. Building relationships builds your community. If someone is offering you help, accept it. Sometimes it takes us until later in life to understand it’s okay to say yes.”
There is, however, a flip side to that piece of advice. Wiles has a history of doing volunteer work for a number of nonprofits, including the United Way, the Hendricks County Community Foundation, and Rock Steady Boxing, an organization that utilizes boxing to enhance the quality of life for those with Parkinson’s disease. However, when she accepted the Chamber position, she promised herself that she wouldn’t bite off more than she could chew.
“I told myself that I would do the job for a year before committing to joining any boards,” Wiles says. “That’s another thing you learn as you get older – that it’s okay to say no, too.”
Wiles recognizes how the coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone on some level, but instead of focusing on the negative, she looks for opportunities to move forward. Last year Wiles and her husband Curtis celebrated their 40th anniversary with a family vacation to the Outer Banks.
“The kids paid for everything,” says Wiles, who has a son, two daughters and three grandchildren.
In her free time, Wiles likes to listen to music, garden and visit with friends.
“I’m at that point in my life where a lot of the things I like to do involve the outdoors, so in the age of social distancing, we bought a projector and movie screen so we can do movies in the backyard,” Wiles says. “That way if our neighbors want to watch, they can set up their lawn chairs and watch with us.”
A fan of all genres of music, Wiles especially enjoys listening to Pink, and when she’s driving she often tunes in to K-LOVE, a Christian music radio programming service.
Wiles often lies awake at night, not fretting about the future but meticulously planning for it. She used to keep a pad of paper by her bed to jot down ideas that would pop into her head, but often she would get carried away and write pages.
“I can’t help it,” she says. “I get so excited about this job and all the possibilities that can happen with the Chamber.”
The Brownsburg Chamber of Commerce is located at 1411 South Green Street, Suite 230. For more information, call 317-852-7885 and visit brownsburg.com.