Plans for a "simple Chamber lunch" with a speaker from the attorney general’s office to mark Child Abuse Awareness Month, have blossomed into a statewide event, Sharon Rudder, of the Wade Knox Children’s Advocacy Center announced at the March meeting of the Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce.

The April 3 Lonoke Chamber of Commerce lunch will be the kickoff for the annual Attorney General’s Youth Summit that will bring more than 2,000 high school students to Lonoke, Rudder said. "This will showcase Lonoke, show what Lonoke can do," Rudder said.

The April luncheon is sponsored by the attorney general, the Wade Knox CAC and the Lonoke Chamber, Rudder said.

Other speakers at the March Chamber meeting were Sherryl Miller, from Lonoke County Museum; and Brandi Tilghman, from Lonoke Relay for Life.

"You must RSVP," by March 25 with the Chamber or the Wade Knox Center, Rudder said. "It is about how the community can prevent bullying," she said of the event.

The April 3 speakers will include Cody Hodges of Rachel’s Challenge, and Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.

Rachel’s Challenge is named after Rachel Scott, the first victim of the first Columbine High School shootings. Rachel’s parents were inspired to begin the organization after reading her journal, Rudder said.

"It’s a huge event, we have about 2,000 students registered for the summit," coming from throughout the state, Rudder said. The summit about bullying will begin after the Chamber luncheon, she said.

"This will showcase Lonoke, show what Lonoke can do," Rudder remarked.

The lunch, itself, will be large, "the attorney general has sent out 150 invitations himself…You must RSVP," she repeated.

A parking problem is anticipated; the school will provide a shuttle from the Lonoke Depot for Chamber members parked away from the school, Rudder said. The times will be announced.

Miller announced that the Lonoke County Museum would open its new genealogy research center, for six days a week, beginning in April. "We are real excited about our new center," she said.

Genealogy has become very popular in the U.S., Miller said. There have been people from throughout the U.S., and some international visitors, come to Lonoke to use the genealogy room. The expanded center is expected to bring even more as people learn of the center, Miller said.

"We have more than 10,000 of people and places in Lonoke County." The pictures are indexed. Miller said.

The Museum also hosts the once-a-month Civil War Roundtable; it meets the second Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m., at the Museum, Miller said.

In other matters, Garner announced that Waffle House construction has begun and might be done within 90 days; completion of the Hampton Inn is expected in about five months, "Barring any unforeseen things that might happen; like the weather," he said.

Interchange work has stopped due to weather. Warmer conditions have to exist longer for the paving work. Work will resume after the ground has been warm enough for at least three days, Garner said.

The annual Chamber Member Appreciation Banquet in April will be held at the Gina Cox Center, Garner said. "It’s going to be a real banquet," he said.

Requests for outstanding member nominations have been sent, but no one has responded, Garner said. Members should be who nominate persons for the honors; "Take a few minutes and think of somebody," he said.

Meagan Ashton and Lindsey Roland reported that the Lonoke High School Future Business Leaders of America members had worked for the March of Dimes at the Primary and Elementary schools, collecting about $1,400.

Hannah Harris was named the March Chamber of Commerce Everyday Hero for her work. The nomination that when Harris moved to Lonoke in 2008, "Little Rock lost, Lonoke gained." The nomination listed Harris’ work as a "community activist" at church, as president of usher board, and leadership in women’s ministries, as well as being a member of the Lonoke Chamber Board of directors, secretary for the Carver Alumni Association, a volunteer worker at school ball games, and as a member of the Lonoke Relay for Life committee.

Rich said the February Everyday Hero, Freddie Thomason, was announced and recognized during the annual Chamber Chili Supper held at the Gina Cox Center.

In other issues, Members voted to accept the February minutes and financial statement as read by Rich.

Little Rock Air Force Base community liaison Lt. Col. Tom Lankford announced this as his last meeting, having been named commander of one of the base units.

Members also voted a accept the membership request by Camille Bennett. "I appreciate everything the Chamber does; a lot of great, friendly hard-working people who do a lot of good for the City of Lonoke," Bennett said after the vote.

Rich said this would be the last meeting with her as president. "Thank you for your continued support of this Chamber, year after year… We have one of the best Chambers of Commerce in the state of Arkansas," she said.