Don't Make the Mistake of thinking that Elnora P. Hamb, president of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church's Women's Missionary Council, is retired, just because hers is ajob.
“How many hours a week do I spend as president? Sunup to sundown!” she says, chuckling, as if it were the most obvious bit of information she could ever impart. “I don't have paid staff; we're just constantly working!”
In fact, the rules that she and her predecessors work under are clear: The national president cannot be gainfully employed.
So this 67-year-old retired media specialist with the Chicago Board of Education and spouse of a retired Chicago bus driver must be independently wealthy, right?
Here comes that laughter again.
“No, I wasn't born into money,” Hamb says, “but it's working out OK. We're humble folks.”
That's a great attitude to have in her job, considering that the Women's Missionary Council ministers to 380,000 women around the globe, with followers in Africa, Haiti, and Jamaica, in addition to the United States.
“I supervise, in the U.S., 32 regions and 32 region presidents. And we have many, many districts within those regions,” she says.
The Women's Missionary Council is one of 10 general programmatic departments within the church, which dates to 1780 in Jackson, Tenn. “Our mission is that we will share the good news — salvation through Jesus — with men, women, and children at home and abroad,” Hamb explains.
She has worked with the council since 1963, and has been president for four years, elected in 2003. The term is four years with four more; you can only serve eight years. One suspects that, given the long hours, high stress, and unending demands, that will be enough for even the most ardent office holder.
On the meetings front, Hamb plans the organization's annual executive board meetings as well as its quadrennial meetings, the latest of which drew 1,000 women to the Atlanta Hyatt in August. That went well, but within days of its conclusion, Hamb had moved on to her next board meeting, scheduled for February 2008 in Jacksonville, Fla.
The thing is, executive board meetings for the Women's Missionary Council are not gentle events held around a hotel conference table. The upcoming one will bring 700 women to the Omni Hotel in Jacksonville.
“There are not that many people on the executive board,” Hamb explains, “but our meetings are open; anyone can come, and we have a good following. We just love the fellowship. They love to know what's going on; they come so they don't have to wait for us to send down the directives.”
Hamb admits to a love/hate relationship with meeting planning.
“It's a big hassle, but it's a lot of fun,” she says. “I try to get the best. The hotel is what's most important to me — trying to get the room rates down because so many people come.”
When it came to learning the ins and outs of meeting planning, Hamb joined RCMA.
“I came to RCMA and I took a lot of classes,” she says. “Some of it is common sense: Ask for the things you want. I've been coming to the annual meeting for the past four years and picking up valuable tips and information. The contacts with the various hotels that invite you to their venues and the convention bureaus have also been very helpful in the cities in which we've held our meetings.”
Sometimes things don't go quite the way Hamb expects. When that occurs, she has found strength in the professional contacts she has made through RCMA.
For example, in planning for a recent meeting, one of the hotels with which she had a room block said that in a previous event, the Women's Missionary Council only brought $10,000 in business — a far cry from the $269,000 that Hamb claimed.
“I knew that wasn't true,” she says. “I said, ‘Shoot, we could do that with one meal!’”
“I had a contact through RCMA with a national executive of the hotel chain, and he interceded,” Hamb says, grateful for her RCMA membership. “If you can call them and they know you and you know them, it helps!”