CANTON - Jodi Wesneski has been the president of the Canton Area Chamber of Commerce for several years.

In that time, she has seen the organization grow.

It makes her proud.

"For me, the most rewarding aspect is our growth," she said. "When I first became president, we had approximately 35 members and of those, only five or so attended meetings. We now average 80 members and regularly have 20 attending meetings. It is exciting for me to have others who want to talk about their business and be an active part of the community."

Wesneski, who became president of the chamber around 2006, said that she is also proud of "the partnership opportunities we have been able to form not only with chamber members, but with other Bradford County chambers and organizations."

"We are learning that networking and sharing ideas, resources and information is an intricate part of our growth and forward progression," she commented. "We aren't in competition with each other and realize the need to keep working together to ensure small town living will continue for years to come."

For example, Wesneski noted that the chamber most recently partnered with the Troy Chamber of Commerce for the "Pink Out Project" last fall.

"Together the two communities raised over $5,000 for the Troy Hospital Patient Mammography Fund," she said. "We also have an ongoing partnership with the Green Free Library in which we co-sponsored the 'Canton Kids Movie Club.' This has offered local children a group activity but also serves as an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the local library and what they can offer them."

However, she said, the chamber's most successful partnership to date has been with Rekindle the Spirit Inc. for the co-sponsoring of the Canton Wine & Cheese Festival.

Wesneski recalled her initial involvement with the chamber.

"I first became involved as a business member through my employment at Gannon Associates," she recalled. "They are very community-minded and encourage their employees to become involved in the areas in which they live and work."

It wasn't the chamber, however, that got her involved with the community in the beginning.

"My first community position began with Canton Junior Bowling in 1997, acting as president for several years while my son participated in the program," she said. "Around the same time, I also became the food vendor chairperson for the Pennsylvania Apple 'n Cheese Festival. I gained an abundance of knowledge and experience over the 13 years I was involved with that organization and it was a lot of fun. Upon retiring in 2009, I contacted Rekindle the Spirit, Inc. and proposed we join forces to create the Canton Wine & Cheese Festival, which has been a huge success. I currently hold the position as festival chairperson. We have a dedicated, hard-working committee and I am so proud of its growth."

She likes serving as chamber president.

"I enjoy being an active member in the community," she said. "I feel that being president has afforded me the opportunity to introduce some new ideas and hopefully inspire others to become involved in making Canton a town they can continue to be proud to call their home."

She said it's the chamber's "intention to continue bringing events into the area in an effort to introduce Canton to others and to provide member businesses with the opportunity to promote themselves. We are a non-profit, volunteer organization, which has its challenges when you are trying to grow and evolve. The chamber continues to expand through the support of its members, volunteers and many sponsors."

Pastor Jerry Schmidt, a member of the chamber representing The Canton Area Ministerial Association, said that Wesneski is "a bundle of energy."

"There is so much that goes on; she is always there, she is always doing something," he said. "She is very active as the president. She doesn't delegate. She is there in the trenches with us with everything they sponsor."

Schmidt said Wesneski has organizational skills and is very personable.

He noted that she is at every event, helping to "set up" and "tear down" at such festivities as the Canton Wine & Cheese Festival "and everything else the chamber sponsors."

"The sign of a good leader is someone who is willing to do it themselves," he said.

"Jodi is extremely community oriented, committed and driven," said Amy Seeley, treasurer of the chamber. "She is truly an asset to the Canton Area Chamber of Commerce and the community as a whole."

For Wesneski, living in the Canton area is a joy.

"Growing up in the area and being a Canton High School graduate has been a part of my life that I wouldn't change," she said. "As we all know, small town living is not for everyone; however, the feeling of walking down the street or into a business and being greeted by your first name is definitely a wonderful feeling. Although Canton is not a monetarily rich town, it is definitely 'rich' in other aspects. I am always overwhelmed by the support given through donations for projects, fundraisers and those in need. The generosity is what I most love about Canton."

On a personal note, Wesneski is marking her 25th wedding anniversary this year to her husband, Rob Wesneski, who works at the Mansfield Post Office. Their son, Brandon, is a senior at Wilkes University and will graduate in May, and will attend law school in the fall.

Wesneski said that although she doesn't have a lot of spare time, she enjoys following Oakland A's baseball and high school wrestling and likes thrift stores.

Wesneski reminded the public that the following chamber events are scheduled this year: May 1 through Oct. 5, Farmers Market at the Main Street Park in Canton; June 8, Community Block Dance from 7-10 p.m. in Canton; June 20-22, Canton Community Yard Sale Days; June 22, Canton Wine & Cheese Festival in East Canton; and July 19, Fast & Furious Classic Car Show in Canton.

Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251;