By Sterling McGinn

For the last 37 years, a Newberry organization has given an official welcome and congratulations to new businesses, and to new owners and management of existing area businesses.

The Newberry Area Ambassadors, a group made of local citizens, business people, and professionals, join together as the official welcoming force for the town.

Highly recognizable with their red blazers, the enthusiastic group stops by new businesses, welcomes dignitaries, and sometimes assists with special events.

It started in 1984, with Henry Teske and Pete Grieves. With several new industries coming into the area, the two Newberry residents felt a need for an organization to recognize and welcome them.

In late January, the organization was officially established at the Village Inn restaurant with Henry Teske as the first president. Vice chairpersons were Chuck Beaulieu and Marilyn Autterson.

The purpose of the group, as defined in the bylaws and constitution, is to exemplify the hospitality of the area and any and all other functions related to that purpose including, but not limited to, acting as hosts for functions within this area, greeting visiting personalities and groups, and doing and performing all other activities not inconsistent therewith.

Some of their first visits included Pickelman’s Pantry and L.P. Corporation.

During the first 10 years, the Ambassadors visited 198 businesses. In 25 years, they’d visited more than 300 businesses.

“We are still carrying on the traditions,” stated long time Ambassador and chairman Travis Freeman.

When the Covid-19 pandemic began, the group put a hold on their regular visits. “We had quite a backlog,” Freeman noted. “We paused during the early part of the pandemic, but we started our regular meetings again, and we are back visiting businesses.”

25-year member Helen Potoczak joined the organization while she was principal of Newberry High School. “It’s a wonderful group representing the community,” she declared. “I am happy to be part of the organization.”

“There are times we may miss a business—we try to have open ears to find and welcome new businesses,” Freeman said.

Currently the organization has 11 members. New members are chosen and invited by the group. The ambassadors continue to make numerous visits each year.

The group usually makes their visits on Wednesdays. During the visit, they present a certificate, and a photo is taken, which is featured in the Newberry News.

Members have come and gone, and new ones have joined, but the organization’s mission remains steady. The ambassadors are always on hand to provide their hearty welcome — they loudly cheer “hip, hip, hooray!” at each stop — and a handshake to those who decide to settle and set up shop in the area.

For more information, you can visit the group’s Facebook page at Newberry Area Ambassadors.