Why volunteer?

I had someone ask me why I volunteer? My initial reaction was “because I can”. I went on further to explain that I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to do so. The next question I received was “well, how does that help Holiday Lanes?”. I often have to explain how or why I am at so many events around town. My job as marketing director for Holiday Lanes allows for me to be involved in the community in a way that also highlights the programs and services that we offer. I respect and understand the need for salespeople and yet I’ve found it difficult to follow the cold-calling techniques that often come with jobs in sales and marketing. I find that attending events, serving on committees, and volunteering provides a way for people get to know me and what I do without having to work the hard sell edge.

readingSo how does it help Holiday Lanes? It gives us the opportunity to invest in the community. We learn about other organizations and it allows us to be a resource for those people related to the organizations.

Today, I found out that sometimes, it really has nothing to do with my job. I started as a Step Forward literacy volunteer, reading to 3rd graders. I was kind of nervous. I’ve never done this before and wasn’t sure how well I’d be around third graders. When I walked into Ms. Collins third grade class at E.B. Williams Stoner Hill Lab Elementary school, I  was actually sweating. (Ok, so humidity was like 300%, but still!) Ms. Collins introduced me to the class and each student had an opportunity to share their name with me. There were five other Williams’ in the class, and so we had something in common. I was assigned six students as my breakout group. We all gathered together in the miniature burgundy chairs and began the task of reading “Jennie and the Wolf”. I asked each student to read a paragraph to me and then asked if I could read a paragraph. They excitedly allowed me to do so. We then all read in unison. (Kinda cool!) We talked about the vocabulary words (discovery and inspired) and the moral of the story (Help others and they will help you). We compared ourselves to Jennie and the Wolf. It was such a fabulous day for me. Those kiddos really snagged me in way I hadn’t expected. I get to read to them twice a week for 30 minutes and what at first seemed like something I might dread, I can now see is going to help me be better at the rest of my work week.

This has nothing really to do with my job, but in another way, it has everything to do with my job. Sometimes I find that I don’t feel like I’m making a contribution. I get caught up in emails, quotes, booking events, and yes, volunteering. Volunteering with thirStep Forwardd graders is way different than volunteering on a committee. I think this is going to give me energy and make me better at my job.

I would encourage you to consider reading to third graders. From what I have learned, third grade is that “make or break” time in a child’s life where being able to read is an indicator of whether they will graduate from high school. This is the very basic description. You will learn more when you sign up. There is a need for volunteers in both Caddo and Bossier Parishes. If you would like more information about Step Forward please contact Laura Alderman at The Community Foundation at 318-221-0582. As I walked out of the classroom from my volunteer time, one of the young men in the class yelled out “We had fun Ms. Robin!”. That made it all worth it!

Step Forward:

That Just Happened!!
Robin Williams
Marketing Maven, Holiday Lanes

 

 

Be A Fan of Shreveport-Bossier

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In celebration of National Travel and Tourism Week – May 1 -7, 2016, I invite you to Be a Fan of Shreveport-Bossier (SB). I am a super fan of SB, and love spreading the word about all of cool things to do in this area. In case you didn’t know, Shreveport-Bossier is home to a horseracing track, six casinos, 45 family attractions, and 50 annual events. I cringe when I hear someone say “there’s nothing to do here”, it is soooo not true.

Check out the video below for my top picks in SB Outdoor Adventures:

Whether you live in SB or have plans to visit, Shreveport-Bossier is filled with museums, festivals, art galleries, indoor and outdoor adventures that will keep you busy for hours. The Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau, and KSLA, has teamed up with SB attractions to offer some super-fabulous, exclusively deep discounts available only during Travel and Tourism week. All you have to do is register your email address at BeAFanOfSB.com. Nearly 20 discounts are being offered as part of the “Be a Fan of Shreveport-Bossier” campaign. When you sign up to receive the discounts, you will also be automatically entered to win a “staycation” package including a hotel stay at Hilton Garden Inn/Homewood Suites in Bossier City, 2016 family 4-pack to Splash Kingdom, a $50 gift certificate to Jan’s River Restaurant, as well as a family 4-pack of tickets to Sci-port Discovery Center, a family 6-pack to Holiday Lanes and more.

You can help spread the word too by sharing your photos and experiences on social media with the hashtag #BeAFanofSB.

Here are some useful websites to help you stay engaged:

That Just Happened!!
Robin Williams
Marketing Maven, Holiday Lanes

National Travel and Tourism Week, a project of the U.S. Travel Association, was established by a congressional resolution in 1983. This week of events serves to champion the power of the tourism and hospitality industry. For more information on National Travel and Tourism Week, visit www.ustravel.org.

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Print your #BeAFanOfSB coloring sheet

Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe opens in Shreveport


Congrats to Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe on their joint Bossier Chamber of Commerce and Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting.

If you are looking for a healthy and tasty option for your next meal, Taziki’s is a superb choice. Taziki’s has been certified as REAL by the United States Healthful Food council.

Taziki’s showed their commitment to the community by presenting a $3000 check to Holy Angels and will continue to support the efforts of that organization. In addition, Taziki’s will employ residents of Holy Angels.


 I’d like to tell you about all the scrumptious items on the menu, but think you would be better served by visiting and trying for yourself. I’m going to stop right here because I have a roasted pork tenderloin sandwich sitting beside me, waiting to be eaten.

Taziki’s Mediterranean Restaurant is located at 5821 Line Avenue, Suite A, Shreveport. Follow them socially:

That Just Happened!!
Robin Williams
Marketing Maven, Holiday Lanes


  

Set up Swap: It’s Like Shopping Without Money

2016-01-20 18.20.45Open your closet. Let’s get real. How many items in there are you actually wearing? If you are like me, there are still a few pieces hanging out from the 80’s. So when my friend Meg invited me to a clothing swap at her residence, I thought “what’s a clothing swap?”. And then I thought, “no way – there will be nothing there to fit me”. And then I thought “oh goodness, I don’t want people to see the junk in my closet”. Meg shared her invite on Instagram and it explained that a clothing swap was an opportunity to freshen up your wardrobe by swapping items with friends. I actually wanted to go, and then realized it was on a day in which I had a previous engagement. So I missed my opportunity. But then my other friend Mollie, offered to host the next event and I immediately marked it on my calendar so I wouldn’t miss out again.

Clothes_Swap_Meg_Davenport_shoe_showoffSwapnista, Meg Davenport, previously worked for a public library and was tasked with setting up a new program that would encourage community involvement. Her original idea was a prom dress swap. (this was pre- Cinderella project, so you know that Meg has big ideas). Her director felt that it might not be just right, so a clothing swap was the chosen project. A clothing swap is a way to get together with friends in a party type atmosphere and share resources, in this case, clothing. Meg says that she has always been the kind of gal who enjoys garage sales and a clothing swap was just a natural progression of the garage sale idea. She figures that if she finds something that she likes and it doesn’t work, rather than pitching it, she will put it aside for the next clothing swap. She says that sometimes she is looking particular items for a one-time event and she may not want to make a big investment. A swap allows for the opportunity to search for items that might fit the bill.

Clothes_Swap_groupThe idea definitely resonated with Mollie Corbett, who attended Meg’s swap. Mollie offered to host a second clothing swap in a larger location and added housewares to the mix. Mollie recognized that Meg’s idea was something that she wanted to share with her circle of friends. Mollie started a private Facebook group and extended invitations to the event that she dubbed “Shreve Swap. The idea is simple. Invite your friends to start looking through their closets and homes. Bring clean, gently used, trade-desired clothing or houseware items that need new homes and start swapping. For each item that you bring to the swap, you can take something home in its place.

I decided the night before Shreve Swap to start looking for items to trade. I opened that scary place I like to call my closet. I hate to admit that I have clothing in my closet from sizes 4 – 24. During this process, although I was trying to find things to swap, I ended up finding some hot little numbers that I had forgotten AND I was surprised to find they actually fit. I finally settled on 25 pieces to take to Shreve Swap.

Clothes_Swap_Katy_Larsen_Hat_Find“It’s like you get to go shopping without spending any money”. – Katy Larsen

As I arrived, the racks were starting to be filled and I was a little nervous about displaying my clothes. Would my stuff be good enough? Would someone judge me for being the person who brought that ugly orange shirt? Pretty soon, I figured out that no one cared where things came from. It was fun to be able to refresh their wardrobe for free. I quickly started eyeing all of the things on display. I had 25 swaps and I couldn’t wait. My friend Katy Larsen said it best that night “It’s like you get to go shopping without spending any money”. She was so right. I left the swap with 3 scarfs, a dress (new with tags), and two blouses. I decided that I didn’t want to take home 25 items and so I left the rest of my items for Mollie to donate to local charitable organizations.

So you don’t know Mollie or Meg, and didn’t get an invite to Shreve Swap? Start your own swap. Here are some suggestions for hosting your own Clothing Swap:

Who to invite: Don’t limit your guest list. More people means more range in selections and sizes. You want lots of options. You’d be surprised to know that many of your friends have sizes in their closet that they haven’t worn in years. 

What: Decide on the type of swap you will host: Clothing, Accessories, Housewares, Books, Hats, Candles, Baby Items

When: Schedule a date that works for at least 3-5 people. Poll your friends before setting the date in stone. You may invite as many as you like, but if only 2 people show up, the selection won’t be as diverse. Schedule a date that is well in advance to give your guests an opportunity think about their swap items.

Where: Determine where you will host the event. You will need some room, depending on the size of the swap.

Display: You will want to have hanging racks for displaying items. Check out Pinterest for ways to create your own portable diy clothing racks. Ask your guests to bring hangers for their pieces, as well as donations of hangers for sharing. You will also want to have table space for other tradable items.

Clothes_Swap_browsingEncourage your friends to clear out their clutter. Give reminders about special events in town. Is it near a certain holiday? Make a suggestion to bring items that are in or off-season. Something that may seem silly might make for a great costume item.

Keep it informal. Don’t make too many rules. With the right mix of people, a light and fun atmosphere makes for a pleasant swap.

Wine and Cheese: It wouldn’t be a party without the snacks. Ask guests to bring snack items to share. Chips and Dips, or wine and cheese.

Help: Ask a few of your guests to help with set up and clean up.

After swap: Decide in advance and have a plan for the clothes that don’t get swapped. You might set out an “I’m going to host the next swap” sign up. Make sure your guests have an option of taking their items back home or leaving it behind for a next swap or you may want to give the option of taking all of the remaining items to a local charitable organization. Remember, if they leave it behind, you will have to deal with the items.

Mollie Corbett said that the power of the swap is in the variety and multiplicity of the items being swapped. Corbett pointed out that a clothing swap is a great way to rid yourself of items in your wardrobe that have become a burden. Be honest. How many items do you hang on to in the hopes of that “one day” when you will fit in it? I have items that still have price tags on them. “If you haven’t worn it in over a year to let it go”. She says when she is looking through her closet “If I wouldn’t pick it up off the rack again, it goes in the swap”.

Meg says: “If it isn’t improving your life, throw it in the swap pile”

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Suggestions for attending a Clothing Swap:

  • Bring clean, gently-used trade-worthy stuff.
  • Meg says “If anything in your closet is not improving your life, throw it in the swap pile. Take a critical eye of your wardrobe. Notice when things aren’t fitting well. Set up a swap bag or box near your closet and pitch things in that you want to bring to the swap”.
  • When attending the swap, leave your feelings at the door when it comes to your items. Someone may pick up your item and make silly comments about the style or color. Don’t take it personal.
  • See something that you like? Pick it up, you might not get the chance again.
  • Didn’t swap it this time? Save it for next time. Different invited eyes might like it on the next go-round.

A swap is a great way to clean out your closet, share things with friends that might otherwise go unused, and a way to spend happy time with friends –  a win for everyone involved. The best swap will be one that you walk away feeling like you just went shopping without spending a dime. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your swap.

Hosting a swap? Tell me about it in the comments below!

That Just Happened!!
Robin Williams
Marketing Maven, Holiday Lanes

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Feigning Blindness

blackLet me begin by saying that being blind is no joke. For an evening, I feigned blindness for the sake of learning.  As I was thinking of catchy blog titles and things to say, all of the “eye opening” references came to mind. But after the experience, I realized quickly that those silly little comments are not as funny as I originally thought. Imagine only seeing darkness, not being able to see the sun, or your child’s face when they are born. Think about how it would be not to see the food that you are eating.

The Louisiana Association for the Blind (LAB) presented “Dining in the Dark” at Superior Steakhouse in Shreveport, Louisiana on February 27, 2016. The fundraising event was meant to benefit the residents of Northwest Louisiana who live with severe vision impairment. LAB was established in 1927 and provides jobs, as well as training and services for people of all ages with low vision blindness. They employ people with vision impairment through four different divisions: LAB IndustriesAbility PrintingAbilityOne Base Supply Centers, and the Low Vision Rehabilitation Center.  The dining experience was also a way to raise awareness and understanding of what it is like to dine without vision. While dining is not the only challenge that people with blindness have to overcome, it is an opportunity to share a small sampling of the skill learning that LAB offers.

On a side note, I’ve worn glasses since the fifth grade. Well . . . “worn” may be stretching it. I’ve been “prescribed” glasses since the fifth grade. Because of my vanity I didn’t wear them with consistently, and then I started to drive. I realized that I must do something, so I got contacts until 2009 when I had PRK surgery to correct my distance vision. As a kid, I’m not sure why, but I would challenge myself by walking around my house with my eyes closed so that I would be able to find my way around if I ever became blind. I also would close my eyes in restaurants thinking that I could sharpen my hearing. I’ve always thought that I would be able to manage if ever became blind. This event proved me to be full of nonsense.

IMG_7014As my boyfriend Ed, and I approached the table, we immediately saw aprons and eye masks at each place setting. Not just any eye masks, but really swanky, light blocking masks with room for your eyes to blinks. I assumed that was so you would have the ability to keep your eyes open during the experience, while maintaining visual impairment. In the printed program, we found “tips and tricks” for successful dining. We’d need to rely on our other senses and abilities, introduce our table mates, imagine a typical place setting, keep contact with the table, and tips for using utensils and drink ware.  What you need to know about me is that I go all in when I participate in events. Once my mask went on, there would be no peeking, so I ran through the tips and got ready to start eating blindly.

Several times during the meal, I was aware that some people at my table had lifted their masks for a peek here and there. I totally get that this was a fun experiment and that not everyone would take it as a serious learning lesson like I had. In fact, at one point I was told that many of the people in the room had already taken off their masks to eat. I realized that I had to keep my mask on. People with low vision don’t get to turn their vision on and off. For just a few hours, I wanted to be immersed in what it felt like and as I sat at the table blindfolded, here are only a few of the things that I felt and thought:

  • Body Language: Body language cues aren’t there to pick up on how verbal expressions land. This alone can make everything more difficult. “Did I say something inappropriate?” “Is that why everyone stopped talking?”
  • I felt isolated: Again, with no visual clues as to when it’s appropriate to speak, I found myself listening and being less engaged in the conversation.
  • Time moves slower: Waiting on the wait staff to deliver food seemed to take an enormously long time. Engaging with dining partners to fill the time is a bit of a challenge when sight is not involved. 
  • Trust issues: I can imagine trust issues must be magnified when visually impaired. I trusted the wait staff when they said my wine was at my 1:00 and my plate was set up with certain foods at the 6:00 position. 
  • Spatial Relations: Navigating spatial relation is tough. I bumped into my waiter twice when he was setting food in front of me. It made me more conscious that I, as a sighted person, want to be more respectful of a visually impaired person’s personal space.
  • IMG_7019-1Self-consciousness, vanity and confidenceMy normal self-consciousness would be challenged if I ever became blind. I noticed as I was sitting at the table I didn’t have much control over what my hair looked like or if my décolletage was exposed. I dropped my salad fork before I ever started eating, and my confidence was not very high that I would be successful in feeding myself.
  • Relationships: Being in a relationship with someone would be based on less superficial exchanges. I heard Edward in a very new and different way. His voice inflections and pauses became more important without seeing his facial expressions. I wondered how I would have even met him if I had not first seen him and then to know what he looked like. I tried the cliché Helen Keller movie version of touching his face and I realized that being able to see a person is way different than relying on the shapes on their face. At one point, Ed and I exchanged a kiss, which was a bit difficult, but also way more hands on, so maybe that was ok.
  • Hearing differently: I was more aware of slight accents, voice changes, and pauses in conversations. As we were dining, I noticed one of the other attendees at our table had an accent that I hadn’t noticed prior to blindfolding. It was helpful in beginning a conversation with him about where he was born.
  • People are really loud: Several voices in the room seemed to be on speaker volume. It made me think that I want to be more aware when I speak in public. It also made me realize that all my practice as a kid did no good for me. All of the sounds in the room were intensified and I had a hard time just being able to hear the people at my table.
  • Smelling: I could smell and identify the food before it arrived. That was almost a comfort. I couldn’t see what I was eating, but I trusted my waiter to tell me what was on my plate. My sense of smell helped me trust what he said. 
  • Eating: I found out, and was proud of the fact, that I was pretty darn good with a fork and knife. I decided that I would still need to go to Weight Watchers if I ever became blind, but how would that work? Many of our eating habits are based on seeing our food. I cleared my plate, but to be sure, I asked my server and she confirmed that I did.
  • Impairment: Drinking while visually impaired is a double whammy. By the time my 3rd course arrived, I had two glasses of champagne and almost 3 glasses of wine. The combination of being visually impaired and intoxicated was quite problematic.
  • Social Media: Anyone who knows me knows that I have a slight social media addiction. I like snapping photos, posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Not once during my meal did I pick up my phone. I knew if I did that I would be inclined to peek through my mask and I wanted to get the full experience of what it would be like if I were blind. It also reminded me that the visually impaired have to rely on experiential memories rather than visual memories. 
  • Visual impairment is not the worst thing: The thought that kept occurring to me was that people with visual impairments have to learn to adjust and do more during just one meal than I have to do all day long. 

The “Dining in the Dark” experience was enjoyable, made me appreciative that I have sight, and more aware of the challenges that the visually impaired face each day. I am so glad to have been exposed to LAB and the services that they offer to those who have become blind or of low vision. They are providing opportunity and support to those in our communities who without it may be left in a situation of despair. I’d encourage you to take care of your eyes, and remember the Louisiana Association for the Blind in the event that you or someone you know ever needs their services.

To learn more about The Louisiana Association for the Blind:

That Just Happened!!
Robin Williams
Marketing Maven, Holiday Lanes

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Remington Suite Hotel and Spa

I was given an opportunity to tour The Remington Suite Hotel and Spa. A historic hotel in the heart of downtown Shreveport, Louisiana.

If you’re looking for a place to host a meeting, party, wedding or any special event, may I suggest The Remington Salon and Spa? It’s the only boutique hotel in Shreveport-Bossier and just an absolutely fabulous historic building that will give your event new life. Also, if you have family or colleagues coming in town, be sure to reserve a room here. They will not be disappointed. AND don’t forget about stay-cations for yourself! I am looking forward to staying sometime soon.

Call my friend Emerie Eck Gentry at (318) 425-5000 to book group events.

To learn more about The Remington Suite Hotel and Spa:

That Just Happened!!
Robin Williams
Marketing Maven, Holiday Lanes

How to find inspiration in Shreveport-Bossier (and a Giveaway)

FullSizeRender-1Do you have something that makes you cringe when you hear it? Something that drives you to roll your eyes and stomp your feet? I sure do. When I hear the phrase “there’s nothing to do in Shreveport-Bossier, Louisiana” I have to restrain myself from completely wigging out. You see, when I first moved to Shreveport-Bossier, I will admit that I said it myself. I moved here from South Louisiana and I really just wanted to go home. For many years, I went to work and then headed straight to my house. On occasion, I looked to the arts and entertainment section of the newspaper to find things that might be of interest to my family. I didn’t know many people that could help connect me to the community, so I just stayed home. That was then. And now, I subscribe to the thought that there are things to do wherever you may be.

Somewhere along the way I found out that if I wanted to be connected to a community, I first needed to leave my house, and secondly, I had to put some effort in on my part. I kind of had to be a researcher in my own life. I started, uncomfortably and awkwardly, attending events. I visited tourist welcome centers to find attractions located in Shreveport-Bossier. I scoured the newspapers to find events. I asked people what was going on in town. As the internet became more ingrained in my life, Googling and Facebook events became the go-to places for my inspiration. These are all fantastic ways to get information, and I will maintain that flow, but my favorite way to get the SB scoop is through the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau’s (SBCTB) newly redesigned website Shreveport-Bossier.org. Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 3.36.00 PMThis website has been around for a while and was already one of my go-to sites, and in particular, the SB Fun Guide link that holds the events page. Today the SBCTB unveiled a redesign of the website with a celebratory launch party at Great Raft Brewing. SBCTB President Stacy Brown gave an introduction to area partners and shared some of the new features of the website. With the redesign, there is so much inspiration and a resource for both locals and tourism visitors. What you will find out is that Shreveport-Bossier has more to do than you can even imagine.

What can you expect to find on the site?  Maps, brochures, photo and video galleries, trip advisor and social media integration, geo-triggers for coupons and events, and itinerary planning:

  • CASINOS – gaming, night life and horse racing
  • THINGS TO DO – Attractions, shopping, family fun, sports, nightlife, group experiences and outdoor recreation. Be sure to click on the Attractions Link to see the multitude of experiences such as performing arts, museums, art galleries and historic places. There is also a great link for free offerings!
  • EVENTS – Festivals, music and annual events – <<<< This is one of my favorite parts of the site because it hosts the SB FUN GUIDE, which is the event driven piece
  • RESTAURANTS – food and drinks!
  • HOTELS – where to stay
  • MY TRIP – a personal trip planner to build an itinerary for a visit to the big SB

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 10.06.05 AMIn my job at Holiday Lanes, I have become active in the SB Attractions Association and am currently serving as president of the association. One of my personal goals is to share local event information with as many people as possible in the community. First, I’m asking my attraction/hotel/restaurant/travel industry colleagues to BE AWARE that you can UPDATE your venues on the newly designed site; and ADD events to the SB Fun Guide. For the event driven page to be successful, it will take input from those who are planning, marketing or hosting local events. The SB Fun Guide is also undergoing redesign and will hopefully be launched next week (Feb 2016). Secondarily, I want this site to be top-of-mind for locals and visitors when looking for inspiration for things to do in Shreveport-Bossier.  Chris Jay, social media and public relations manager of the SBCTB, says that he is super excited that the new site will allow easy and quick uploading of featured events which will showcase partners, whether they are festivals, restaurants or attractions. Ideally, a venue would like to promote for several weeks, or months, prior to an event, but being able to make changes in a matter of minutes will be transformative for local tourism partners who might find themselves in need of a last-minute promotional boost.

So . . . how do you find inspiration in Shreveport-Bossier?

And, how do you WIN A GIVEAWAY?

One lucky That Just Happened blog reader will receive Bowling for Six people from Holiday Lanes. Simply go to Shreveport-Bossier.org, find the attractions link and locate the Holiday Lanes link on the site. Paste the Holiday Lanes Attraction page link in the comments section below AND THEN tell me which part of the Shreveport-Bossier.org website gave you a bit of inspiration. Winner will be announced on February 17, 2016.

Panderina Soumas and David Doe, local ambassadors and SB visitor guide cover models share a smile at the website Launch Party.

Other ways to connect with the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau:

That Just Happened!!
Robin Williams
Marketing Maven, Holiday Lanes

 

2/17/16 – CONGRATS Bill McGill – you are the winner of a bowling certificate for six to Holiday Lanes!