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Delray Chamber Men's Group celebrates 5th anniversary

The Chamber Men's Group at Old Calypso Wedneday evening.

The Chamber Men's Group of the Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce celebrating at Old Calypso Wednesday evening.


By David Sedore, Palm Beach

DELRAY BEACH — It began five years ago almost as a whim, a guys-only networking/socializing group within the Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce.  The original working name of the group: the scotch and cigar club.

Wednesday evening, that group, now known as the Chamber Men’s Group. celebrated its fifth anniversary at Old Calypso restaurant on East Atlantic Avenue, the site of its original gathering. It’s still provides a relaxed atmosphere where members and guests can drink scotch and smoke cigars, if they care to, while doing a little business. But it’s also managed to raise about $100,000 for local children’s charities.

“It really is amazing what these guys have done,” says Tom Kriete, the group’s original chairman. “People write us off as just a bunch of guys, but we’re really a group of successful businessmen.”

The genesis of the group lies in the chamber’s successful Focus on Women programs. Whenever chamber members gathered at an event, then-chamber president Bill Wood would make note of upcoming Focus on Women meetings, invariably stirring a side conversation among the men: “ ‘What about us?’ ” Kreite said.

The answer from the chamber was go form your own group, and they did just that, unsure exactly how it would be recieved. For the first CMG party, turnout was expected to be in the range of 20 to 25; instead more than 100 crowded into Old Calypso.

“That really showed there was a demand for this type of group,” Kriete said.

From the beginning, the CMG sought to be different than other groups within the Delray chamber. For one, it doesn’t charge for its events — since the group’s inception, Old Calypso under General Manager Nick Awad has picked up the tab for the parties held there. Group events also are open to non-chamber members, which has helped the chamber recruit.

And then there’s the signature shirts.

About three years ago, the CMG wanted a way to “brand” itself. Shirts, it was suggested, might do the trick, while making it easier for guests to identify members at events. Not t-shirts. Not polo or golf shirts. Bowling shirts. When the shirts debuted at Old Calypso, Gregg Weis, a member of the CMG and now chairman of the Delray Chamber, jokingly said the group looked like a bowling cult.

Another example of the way the generosity that has made the group work: CMG member Tom Serio picked up the tab for about two dozen of the shirts.

From the beginning, CMG has focused its charitable efforts on groups that help children. Kreite estimated — and other members confirmed — the group has raised at least $100,000 in its five years.

The group will hold its World Series tailgate party, its biggest annual event, on Oct. 19 on the great lawn at Old School Square. The goal is to raise $40,000 for the Achievement Center for Families and Children.

“We’re looking at our biggest event ever,” Dan Castrillon told the gathering Wednesday evening. “The Achievement Center is a great charity, and the money stays right here in Delray Beach. We really try to give back to the community, and with your help, we’ve been very successful.”

Proceeds from Wednesday’s anniversary party went to Flat Stanley’s Ride for Kids and Cops — a 22-state, 23-day motorcycle ride by Chuck Halberg and Jimmy Christe that morphed into a fundraising effort that has generated $13,000 for local charities, including the Achievement Center, Prep and Sports, Delray Citizens for Delray Police, the CJ Foundation and the Delray Beach Education Foundation.   

Tom Kriete of Computer Worx, Kevin King of Get Fit! and Dan Castrillon of the Sciroco Group. All three have chaired the Men's Group, with Castrillon presently holding the title

Tom Kriete of Computer Worx, Kevin King of Get Fit! and Dan Castrillon of the Sciroco Group. All three have chaired the Men's Group, with Castrillon presently holding the title.



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