After nearing dissolution last year, a revamped Medford Chamber of Commerce has been making its presence felt in a big way across the hamlet and beyond in recent months.

And their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

The chamber’s new secretary, Erinkelly Connell, was recognized for her efforts this spring at the esteemed Annual Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce Coalition Member of the Year & Awards Dinner as the member of the year for all of Brookhaven Town.

This came on the heels of signing up over 100 new members since January, when its officers were officially sworn-in.

The chamber has also beefed up its lineup of events while enhancing long-running events, such as the annual Christmas parade, chamber officers tell

Linda Davis, the chamber’s current president and the owner of Balsam Printing in Medford, said the group came close to dissolving in early fall after leadership conflict had it on life support.

“It went down really fast” in the later summer of 2017, said Davis. “We were told we basically had to dissolve the chamber and re-start it.”

“It was folding,” further explained Connell.

But that never happened, mostly due to a mix of new leaders and old who worked to resuscitate it.

Prior to Connell’s involvement in the chamber, she and Tex Dennerlein, now a chamber trustee, had already helped save what was a condemned Medford VFW, Post 2937, on Long Island Avenue.

“We demo-ed  the place, and then everyone came in to help so it was a nice community effort,” she said. “Now it’s restored.”

The VFW was restored raising money, acquiring donated materials and solicited contractors to donate their service.

After that, Connell, a licensed behavior analyst and board-certified B.A. who lives in Medford, was recruited herself to get involved in the chamber. Prior to all this, her community involvement mostly involved volunteering as a Girl Scouts leader.

She was sworn-in as secretary in January, after serving in a de facto leadership role in the fall into winter.

“So she went from Erinkelly, Girl Scout leader, to Erinkelly, honorary chamber member, to Erinkelly, board member,” said Davis.

The big membership push started in January.

Before, that there were about 24 members, she said, and now there are about 130.

“We took over, rose above, and here we are,” Connell said in a recent sit-down with other chamber board members and at the Metropolis Diner in Medford.

The slate of chamber officers is now rounded out by Niel Marturiello, vice president, and Christie Weichert, treasurer.

Unofficially, the turning point for the chamber came with the ramping up the annual Christmas parade.

“Medford doesn’t have a crowded Main Street like Patchogue does. There are a lot of businesses but they’re spread out,” Dennerlein said, estimating over 300 total across the hamlet. “So with the Christmas parade we reached out to so many businesses, saying it’s free to march, why not?”

They also switched the parade to a Saturday in order to extend the festivities later.

“And we decided to use [Medford Memorial Park] to our advantage and have a Family Fun Night. We had hot chocolate, bands, Santa and the tree lighting.”

“They knocked it out of the park,” Davis said.

“It was the biggest parade in Medford that I’ve seen,” Connell said.

The results also inspired leadership to do more events in 2018 that includes new seasonal festivals, networking nights, fashion shows, USO shows, a ramped-up concert series in Memorial Park, even involvement in the Toilet Paper Pyramid planned for July 19’s Alive After Five in Patchogue.

“We’re connected,” said Connell, speaking of the chamber’s approach to the Patchogue Village and the unincorporated areas.

“This is Patchogue-Medford,” added Davis.

“And we still have a lot of work to do in Medford as it is,” said Dennerlein, who owns Academy IT Services in Patchogue. “But we’re going in the right direction, and we want to make sure we’re reaching out and doing the right thing by everybody.”

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Top: Medford Chamber of Commerce trustees and officers at the Children’s Spring Festival in Medford Memorial Park in April. (L-R): Tex Dennerlein, Linda Davis, Danielle Paisley, Erinkelly Connell, Steven Maier, Cathy LoSchiavo, Mike Evans and Christie Weichert.

Erinkelly Connell at the Annual Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce Coalition Member of the Year & Awards Dinner. (courtesy)