BERLIN — Visitors to Berlin’s Main St. this summer are in for an unusual sight — a bright yellow umbrella with town employees underneath waiting to give out directions and information.
Dubbed “the Berlin Ambassador Program,” June through August will see volunteer town employees, of which there are currently 34, out on Main St. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors will be able to approach the employees for directions around town, tips on where to go to find dinning or shopping, as well as general information about Berlin.
According to Mayor Gee Williams, the idea originated months ago, when town leadership began to realize that an influx of new businesses, and the re-arrangement of old ones, has many visitors and even some locals curious about what is going on in Berlin.
“Although this economic prosperity is good for the community, it has significantly increased the number of questions people ask, including residents, about where things are, or what there is to do,” Williams said. “The council and I are deeply grateful that our town employees initiated and are supporting this creative and practical way of promoting our growing business sector.”
Each employee ambassador will volunteer for two-and-a-half hour shifts, which they will share with another employee. Though these shifts are occurring during work hours, Williams is confident that the ambassador program will not negatively impact town productivity.
“[Employees] seem to be able to do anything they put their mind to,” he said. “I’m not worried about any work not getting done.”
Because of the limited number of hours the ambassadors will operate and the large pool of volunteers, employees will likely only work about one shift every other week.
“If the ambassador program is successful, as I believe it will be, the town will encourage Chamber members and citizens to volunteer at the informational stand weekdays late in the afternoon and expand the free service on the weekends,” the mayor said.
One final potential benefit of the service could be the collection of names, numbers and emails of willing Berlin visitors who interact with town ambassadors That data could be added to a master list, which would allow officials to interact and keep in touch with out-of-towners who have an interest in Berlin.
Williams said that the ambassador program well synch well with efforts being made by private businesses to make the town a more cohesive entity.
“Despite all of the economic challenges we face in these first years of the 21st Century, I believe more than ever in the potential and promise of the Town of Berlin,” he said. “Our future as a town is not so much determined by what is going on anywhere else, but by what we do to work together to create a place where we appreciate and respect the diversity of our assets and differences.”