Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dowagiac Queen Complains About Treatment From Chamber and DDA Director

To the Community of Dowagiac:

As the Mother of Miss Dowagiac 2009 I would like to thank this Community for supporting my daughter during her reign. It was a greatly appreciated privilege to have been selected to represent the Community of Dowagiac and one she took very seriously. The opportunity to visit our schools and participate in Community activities allowed Shelby to explore and educate herself in preparation for her future. She was able to promote learning and offer friendship and encouragement to many of our Community members. The tremendous positive response she received was awesome. Again, I thank you.

Shelby participated in many activities accepting invitations from a variety of Community groups. She was honored to be chosen to represent this Community and eager to become involved. Her enthusiasm and willingness to participate was never ending. Regrettably some of the organizers of the Miss Dowagiac Scholarship Pageant did not feel this was acceptable. We received many callous communications from the Director, some Committee Members, and the Chamber of Commerce including the implication that her dismissal was under consideration due to her excessive involvement in the Community as Queen stating in writing at one point that “Shelby's extra public appearances have far exceeded both the requirements and expectations of our Pageant Director and Executive Committee … it is clearly time that her excess public appearances as Queen, which either you or Shelby have selected, be discontinued or limited. We suggest that you start with the elementary school classroom visits …”

I was appalled. I understand that the nature of organizing most anything these days is often challenging. However, we simply can't afford to be unproductive and allow opportunities to better our Community and support our youth and future pass by. For the Chamber of Commerce along with the organizers of a scholarship pageant to discourage the support of our Community schools was unbelievable. Shelby’s activities cannot be perceived or represented as a burden to this volunteer organization as I chaperoned her to every event in the absence of her Director. Despite all the resources at their disposal and considerable time to deal with the situation, we found disorganization and lack of support to be the given. In everything from poor planning and discouraging participation in activities to refusing to communicate with, or acknowledging the role of family, the conflict never seemed to have an end.

It is unfortunate Shelby did not receive the support from this organization that she received from the Community that welcomed her involvement. With the exception of one Committee Member who offered encouragement, this Committee as a whole, including the Directors and the Chamber of Commerce took a united position against her. In spite of opposition from this group regarding her acts of volunteerism in the Community and its school system, Shelby continued on without their support. Regrettably, the experience we had was not what we had anticipated. We had expected a much higher level of performance from this organization, and were quite disappointed.

Making the decision to send this letter was difficult as I considered the likelihood of the retaliation it may generate. When the offensive behavior by Directors continued the day after the 2010 pageant I concluded it was better to come forward in an effort to recognize and improve the situation rather than to enable it to continue by taking no action. I can only relay our experience and wish those who follow the best. After more than 70 years, it may be time for change. This organization needs to review and recognize its shortcomings. It would be advantageous for this organization to try to view this conflict as an opportunity to analyze the situation objectively and come up with a solution that could benefit everyone. Surely, our unfortunate experience can be the exception rather than the norm.

To the future Miss Dowagiac, this is a very exciting time for you. In the months to come you must persevere and make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead. The outlook for the coming year is bright, be proud of your accomplishments. With a positive, confident attitude, nothing can stop you!

Julie Willis

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