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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Eminently Qualified: Shelley Tate

When the Chillicothe State Bank in Chillicothe, Missouri, was looking for a candidate for director of the Distinguished Citizens (DC) Club eight years ago, it didn’t have to look far. Shelley Tate was not only executive vice president of the Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce for two years, but also general manager of a major chain hotel for four years.

“As the GM, I had done all the marketing and advertising, booked and ran the meeting room, fulfilled the human resource duties, and I was heavily involved in the Missouri Travel Council,” said Tate. “In 1995, I was also humbled to be selected for the first White House Conference on Travel and Tourism, held in Washington, D.C., with President Clinton. What an experience!

“I loved the hospitality industry. But anyone in that business knows that it is all-consuming, and there is no time off. I’m so lucky to be here with the DC Club — it’s a combination of everything I love.”

Every destination is a favorite
The six branches of Chillicothe State Bank in north-central Missouri have nearly 2,250 members who enjoy many annual overseas and domestic journeys and day trips.

“Each branch has a DC Club coordinator. I also have three women who work with me on a committee to critique trips and talk about upcoming travels. They also occasionally go with us on big trips, and they, along with the board of directors, are so supportive,” Tate said.

Tate, a lover of travel who once took a three-week excursion to Germany, Austria and Switzerland with her husband, said she was in heaven when she realized that she was going to travel for a living.

“I can’t pick a favorite destination,” Tate said. “My first overseas trip with the group was to Paris and London — how great is that? — and New Zealand and Australia, where the raw beauty of the aborigine territory was breathtaking, and Ireland, where the people are so warm and hospitable. How could anyone choose their favorite place?”

On the group’s domestic travels, when the itinerary offers more flexibility, Tate cherishes those opportunities to fit in special surprises.

“Last fall, we visited beautiful Savannah, Georgia, and I realized that some of our travelers had never seen the Atlantic Ocean — we are landlocked here in Missouri, as you know. Well, I wanted to give them the experience that I would certainly want if I were in their shoes, so we made arrangements to visit the Tybee Island Lighthouse. While it was not planned, it was not terribly out of our way.

“I’ll tell you that while we loved everything about Savannah, this unplanned jaunt to the ocean received the overwhelming vote for the group’s favorite part of the trip, and it was free.

As a beach-lover myself, it is now on my bucket list to take the group to Sanibel Island and the Florida Keys,” she said.

Because Chillicothe is centrally located to many entertaining areas in the Midwest, the DC Club travels to Kansas City to see Broadway shows and holiday lights, to Hannibal to enjoy the home of Mark Twain and cruise the Mississippi River, and to Sedalia, where the group boards an Amtrak train to venture to a variety of locations.

“Every year, we take a train trip, and this year, our holiday excursion is to Hermann for a winery tour. We’re going to be greeted by a German Santa Claus and experience something called a ‘singing tour’ of Hermann,” said Tate.

Sad but inspiring memory
On one of those day trips to Kansas City, Tate recalled in vivid detail one of her most poignant experiences with the DC Club. “We were going to see ‘The Phantom of the Opera,’ and a recently widowed lady desperately wanted to go. She told me it had been her dream to see ‘The Phantom.’ She did come with us, and I made sure she was especially well cared for.

“But immediately after the performance, she became ill, and paramedics attended to her. Despite the fact that I assured her I would spend the night in Kansas City, she refused to go to the hospital and insisted on going home with us. She told me many times on that return trip how much seeing ’The Phantom’ had meant to her. She died the next afternoon.

“Indeed, it’s a tearjerker, but I have lots of comfort knowing we gave her the opportunity to do something she really wanted to do. My own mom has been gone for 17 years, and I know it’s a privilege to be around people her age and do all I can to give them extraordinary experiences.”

A harmonious family

Tate claims she would be a vital part of her community — she has been serving as chairperson for the Livingston County Multipurpose Center and on a committee for the Chillicothe Housing Authority — even if she didn’t hold the position of DC Club director.

“Both my husband, Steve, and I are workaholics. It just makes sense to work and do good things at the same time,” she said.

In their spare time, these University of Kansas basketball fans cheer for the Jayhawks every chance they can. “Both of our daughters went to school there, and one even works there. We try to go to all the home games,” Tate said.

Besides sports, Tate said they also have a near obsession with music. “All of our kids love music,” she said. “I claim it’s because we had the stereo on the day they got home from the hospital.

“Every year, we go as a family to the Round Barn Blues Festival in Kirksville, where the best national and local blues artists perform. And not too long ago, we went to the Huey Lewis and the News concert in Kansas City.”

Tate admitted she looks forward to these family adventures just as much as she does her DC Club travels. “I never tire of travel,” she said. “It’s always an adventure. As a matter of fact, that’s what I tell my family and group at the beginning of every trip: ‘Okay. Let’s get ready for our next adventure.’

“It sets the tone, and everyone knows there may be surprises; things sometimes don’t go as planned. But, often those little twists turn out to be the best part.”