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story.lead_photo.caption Gina Quattlebaum stands outside the Cabot Chamber of Commerce office, where she will be the new membership and events coordinator for the chamber, starting Monday. Quattlebaum comes to the chamber after six years as development coordinator for Building Bridges Developmental and Community Services Inc., formerly the Lonoke Exceptional Development Center. - Photo by Staci Vandagriff

When the Cabot Chamber of Commerce decided to reorganize and hire a membership and events coordinator, Gina Quattlebaum jumped at the opportunity.

Quattlebaum, 46, has served as the development coordinator for Building Bridges Developmental and Community Services Inc., formerly Lonoke Exceptional Development Center, for the past six years.

“I’ve been involved with the Cabot Chamber for quite some time,” Quattlebaum said. “I’ve seen it as a great asset for businesses. When the position became available, I was very interested. As Cabot has grown, our Chamber has really grown. Amy [Williams] came in a few years back. She has really gone above and beyond and made it incredible.”

Quattlebaum is referring to Cabot Chamber executive director Amy Williams, who has served in that role for five years. Williams said the city of Cabot and the City Council came to her asking about taking over economic development, thus needing another person to work with events and memberships.

“We’ve restructured the chamber,” Williams said. “My new title is executive director/community development. This was brought on by a recommendation from the city wanting us to handle economic development. In that partnership, we realized that we needed to realign some duties and we needed to add another job to relieve some of mine and let me oversee the chamber and work on community and economic development.”

Quattlebaum officially starts her duties Monday with the Cabot Chamber.

“My duties will be basically to grow and maintain the membership of the businesses of Cabot in the Cabot Chamber of Commerce, as well as the events,” she said. “It seems like every year we add something to our events. Obviously, the big one coming up is Cabotfest.

“That is on everybody’s mind. We also have monthly local lunches. We have several committees as well. We just had the new teacher’s luncheon when school started. We have the Honor’s Luncheon.”

She also said the chamber sponsors Bowling for Businesses.

“We have a lot, and I’ve been brought on to do even more for our businesses,” Quattlebaum said. “There may be some more opportunities for lunch-and-learn classes. We’ve done a couple of those in the past, and we’d like to do more. We’re just really wanting to expand as much as we can and do as much as we can for the chamber businesses.

“We have so many networking events and opportunities and meet new businesses and share experiences. I just see it as a wonderful way for businesses to get to know each other and help each other and grow their own business.”

Williams said Quattlebaum was a natural choice for the new position.

“Gina is a hidden treasure,” Williams said. “She applied for the job. We had over 25 applicants. Her qualifications just set her above the rest because she is probably one of the most active volunteers for the chamber and community. She’s at every one of our events. She’s on our Ambassador Committee. In the past five years since I’ve been here, she’s been a big help to me. I think with her already knowing how the chamber works and our events, she will be able to hit the ground running and continue to grow the chamber.”

Quattlebaum said leaving Building Bridges, which has campuses in Cabot and Lonoke, is hard for her.

“It’s tremendously tough,” she said. “I’ve tried not to think about it. I love these kids and adults with all my heart and soul. I don’t think anyone would ever doubt that for a second whatsoever.”

Quattlebaum plans to visit Building Bridges as often as she can.

“I’m already letting them know that I’ll be back here. … They can’t keep me out,” she said. “I’m going to see these kids and adults, hopefully, on a biweekly basis. Maybe I can come read to the preschoolers, and we’ve got some cool stuff going on at the adult unit. I plan on going over there and hanging out with them. I definitely want to maintain a relationship with the center because it’s in my heart. I do love them so much.”

During her time as development coordinator for Building Bridges, Quattlebaum did a lot of fundraising and promotion of the school.

“Since we’re nonprofit, I did a lot of website stuff — branding, marketing,” she said. “It’s basically education, educating the community on what we do. I had the honor of loving on babies at the same time and really being inspired by these kids and adults. I’ve truly been blessed.

“It’s going to be really hard to leave, but I hope [Executive Director Janie Sexton] allows me to continue to be part of their lives.”

Quattlebaum, who is a lifelong resident of Arkansas and a 1990 graduate of Jacksonville High School, has called Cabot her home for more than 20 years.

“When people ask me where I’m from, I say Cabot,” she said. “I’ve got two sons and two fur sons here.”

Quattlebaum didn’t attend college after graduating from Jacksonville, but that hasn’t stopped her from hard work.

“We didn’t have much,” she said about growing up. “As soon as I was able to work, I had two or three jobs. I just worked. Everywhere I worked, I just tried to learn as much as I could. I tried to learn from everyone, from the bottom to the top. That way, if you need to hop in, you hop in. I’ve taken that with me. People see my dedication and integrity. … People see that I’m tenacious. I go for it and get it done.

“I’m one of those people who isn’t afraid to do anything, whether it’s cleaning toilets, sweeping, changing diapers or doing a TV interview. It doesn’t matter. I’m willing to do just whatever it takes. The less you have, the harder you try because you’re thankful for what you do have.”

Serving the community, whether it’s through her time at Building Bridges or through civic organizations or Make-A-Wish, Quattlebaum loves serving people.

“My main passion is Make-A-Wish,” she said “I’ve been involved with that for about 12 years. We grant wishes for children who are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. A big misconception is that they all pass away. It’s only that they are diagnosed.”

While working with Make-A-Wish, Quattlebaum has helped grant wishes to those children and is also an ambassador for the company.

“If you need someone to yap with, who better to call than me?” she said. “I’d be more than happy to tout Make-A-Wish.”

With her work at Building Bridges, Quattlebaum has been involved with the Kiwanis, Civitan and other civic organizations. She’s also a lifetime member of the Junior Auxiliary.

“I’ve had to scale back a bit because I’ve been involved with so many,” she said. “I’m a lifetime member of Junior Auxiliary. I’m not active now, but I served my five years, so I get to say I’m a ‘lifer.’”

But Quattlebaum keeps coming back to Make-A-Wish.

“Everybody says that when I say ‘Make-A-Wish,’ they said they can’t do that,” she said. “There is something in my heart, when I’m there. I’m not nervous or scared. I don’t feel sadness. I feel joy. I feel blessed that I have played some small part in making this child happy.”

Quattlebaum said she keeps in contact with families that she helps through Make-A-Wish.

“We get to go into their homes and hear their stories and talk to the parents and the kids,” she said. “What better blessing than to share time with you. They share a little bit of their life. We’re there to give them happiness. It’s all about the child. It’s so directed toward the child. We just go in there and act silly.

“We just take their minds off everything. Once they are my kids, I try to stay in touch with them. I know how they are doing. It’s such an amazing organization. I’ve just always felt so privileged to be a part of it.”

Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or mbuffalo@arkansasonline.com.

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