River Forest Villager of the Year runner-up: Cathy Yen

Yen boosts Chamber's energy and influence

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By Deb Kadin

Contributing Reporter

The Oak Park-River Forest Chamber of Commerce may enter a new era with Cathy Yen at the helm. 

With the Oak Park resident — and runner-up for Villager of the Year —­­­­ in charge for the past several months, the chamber is becoming an active, progressive advocate for the local business community. 

The new presidents of both Oak Park and River Forest have specifically reached out to Yen and the chamber for input and advice on business-related topics.

Yen, a former small business owner herself, wants to expand the chamber's membership and give it stronger ties to the community.

One only has to look at the chamber's website to get a sense of what may happen on Yen's watch. Planning and a "soft launch" took place before Yen came on board.  

The site, which is informative and has easy-to-read graphics, will undoubtedly be useful to both communities as it becomes better known.

Communication and networking within Oak Park and River Forest will be a hallmark of the site, allowing people, consumers and businesses to find the chamber; promoting news and special events and newsletters and creating resources for the business community to post news.

Putting the finishing touches on the site helped her learn the ins and outs of the chamber and about both communities as well.

"It was a blast," Yen said. "I got to look at it from a member and a consumer perspective. 

It helped determine what people would be interested in wanting to know." 

For many years Yen was the owner of Great Harvest Bread Company at Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue. 

More recently she has been a consultant to small businesses and the president of the Oak Park and River Forest High School Booster Club. 

Her position as executive director and background as an independent business owner will be an asset to River Forest as an ex-officio member of the community's Economic Development Commission. 

This panel, tasked with helping foster economic growth, will be recommending options for enhancing the community's business corridors. 

One topic will be the Dominick's site, which has become vacant. 

The panel will be starting from scratch. 

Yen said she will be bringing her varying perspectives to the table – from a business, consumer and community perspective. 

And she is glad to be a part of it.

"I'm really delighted to be an ex-officio member. The title implies that I'd be bringing a specific point of view that is connected to the chamber. I'll have more responsibility in terms of making sure that I come prepared and represent the views of multiple businesses." 

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