Four ladies say goodbye to Welcome Center duties

Four ladies say goodbye

to Welcome Center duties

Ray Scherer

Without the timely assistance of four ladies stationed at the Welcome Center in recent years, visitors to Hermann may have had difficulty finding their way around town and fully enjoying the experience.

Those four women -- Brenda Baur, Molly Saak, Lorena Lionberger, and Betty Van Booven -- concluded their service at the center on Thursday, New Year's Eve. The center closed its doors for the last time at the 1906 firehouse, after the Hermann Area Chamber of Commerce earlier announced plans to vacate the facility for that purpose. The space is being offered to the city of Hermann, which has yet to come forward with any formal interest in its future use. The chamber plans to keep its administrative functions stationed at the firehouse. The chamber made the decision based on the amount of resources it was committing. The Welcome Center had been located in the firehouse since January 2017, and discussions with the city on the potential change had been ongoing for the past year.

Baur has been helping guide tourists for almost 20 years. She began her service as a volunteer at Hermann's first Welcome Center, at the Historic Reiff Haus at 306 Market St.

"I've met tourists from all the over world, (and) enjoyed hearing them say what a beautiful town we have," Baur said. "I will miss helping people and our businesses, but I will keep promoting Hermann, my hometown."

Two Russian doctors were among those receiving Baur's aid during their time spent in Hermann. She and the three others also mentioned taking the extra step of transporting visitors to and from their guest houses, or wherever else they happened to be overnighting. Rendering such help has imparted a sense of good feeling among the foursome. It's not been unknown for them to receive cards of thanks in the mail, and even some gifts such as candy and cookies.

Van Booven was part of the chamber staff for 11 years and enjoyed that time as part of the local tourism effort.

"I really enjoyed promoting my hometown to tourists from all over the United States and many foreign countries," she told the Advertiser-Courier. "I feel like one of the things that impressed the tourists the most was when they asked, "How long have you lived in Hermann?' When I would reply, "I was born and raised here,' they were always amazed and would remark, 'No wonder you are so knowledgeable about this beautiful little town.'"

One illustration comes from the time Van Booven helped an elderly Australian couple -- just before the center closed on one particular day -- procure an overnight stay in Hermann.

"They tried to give me $20 for helping them, because he said I did much more than any travel agent they had ever used," she said. "I will miss my part-time job here tremendously, because I am a people person and always do enjoy visiting and meeting new people.

Lionberger gave about four years to the Welcome Center, noting that time has included conversations from visitors all over the United States.

"I enjoy meeting the people," she said. "I tell them what to do in Hermann. They thank me tremendously."

Saak said Hermann, since it's her birthplace, "is close to my heart. It has been a privilege to share my enthusiasm of Hermann with all our visitors from every state in the Union and many countries."

She said she and the others have realized the importance of their knowledge to the city's visitors, as well as local businesses and the public.

Melissa Lensing, who serves as the chamber's executive director, praised the Welcome Center staff as good examples of the community's friendliness to the outside world.

"These ladies have set the bar for Hermann hospitality," Lensing said.