EVART — Over the past year the Evart Chamber of Commerce has undergone changes at the top.

"Other board members began quitting all around the same time," recently appointed Chamber President Eric Schmidt said. "In the past, it has been the board that has done everything. They were ready to get off and let somebody else take the reins. They wanted new blood in here."

Some board members left because they were involved in other organizations and didn't have the time, others left for health reasons, and some were just tired of having to do it all themselves, Schmidt continued.

New chamber vice president Ashlee Flachs said the change has happened gradually over the last year and a half, as new board members came in to fill somebody else's position. Each time a board member left, someone stepped up to take their place.

"I have been here just over a year and it has just evolved," chamber member Sandy Keller said. "Change happens, and sometimes it is hard, but we have had very positive reactions from the community."

Flachs said going forward, the chamber plans to focus more on the needs of local businesses and less on events. They plan to work closely with the Evart Downtown Development Association (DDA) and the city of Evart to try to change the way things are done.

"We hope to eventually have an events coordinator for the whole area, so the DDA, the city and the chamber can utilize it," Flachs said. "That's a long-term goal to help get everyone's events off their plate. We want to change direction to more of a business perspective and look at what we can do for local businesses. That's what people look for in a chamber."

Keller said everyone she has talked to is in favor of that because they want their business to grow.

"Businesses are ready for us to focus on how they can get more customers through their door," Schmidt said.

According to Flachs, in the past year 40 businesses have joined the chamber, including a 22-year-old entrepreneur, who graduated from Evart High School.

"We need to leverage his story, as well as others, Flachs said. "We don't do a good enough job of telling our big stories. We're all starting new things or expanding and we have a lot of determination. We are ready for change, for energy and for positivity."

Several businesses and community organizations were represented at the chamber meeting on Nov. 13.

Flachs told those in attendance they are the heart of the community, and being at the meeting was the first step toward making a difference.

"We have an amazing group in this room right now," Flachs said. "We hope you can reach out to the people who are not here."

The chamber is now housed in the old Family Dollar building on U.S.-10 in Evart, and Schmidt said he hopes housing the chamber there, having their own space and having informational brochures available will help make a difference.

"We are here to serve the businesses of this community, and we need to do a better job of that," he said.