Lucky mistake leads Pam Vestal to city Visitor Center’s doorstep

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 6, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

It was a lucky mistake that landed the Suffolk Visitor Center one of its most active volunteers.

Before January, Pam Vestal, recent recipient of the visitor center’s first Hospitality Hero Award, had never been to downtown Suffolk. She and husband, Don, moved to northern Suffolk four years ago, buying the waterfront home that belonged to the late Suffolk School Superintendent Mack Benn Jr.

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Vestal found out about the volunteer opportunities late last year, after opening a letter from the tourism department that had been delivered for Benn’s wife, who now lives in Arizona. As part of its effort to recruit visitor center volunteers, the department mailed out dozens of letters asking for help from individuals and organizations.

The letter came at a good time for Vestal, in the process of completing of getting her certification in hospitality operations from the American Hotel and Lodging Association through Norfolk State University.

&uot;It was right down my alley,&uot; said Vestal. &uot;I was looking for a resume-filler in the tourism-related business.&uot;

But it quickly became much more than that for Vestal, who initially worked three-hour shifts every Saturday and Sunday. She has since cut back to just a Sunday shift.

Vestal became the department’s first hospitality hero by logging 864 volunteer hours during the first six months of the year, said Lynette Brugeman, the city’s tourism director.

The volunteer with the second highest number of hours had put in 144, she added.

&uot;Those shifts are the hardest to fill,&uot; Brugeman said. &uot;Even our wonderful senior volunteers like to travel and enjoy the weekends with their families.&uot;

Vestal had worn numerous hats as a volunteer, working as a greeter, house tour guide and city ambassador.

&uot;As a volunteer on weekends, Pam brings enthusiasm and genuine interest to the city’s tourism endeavors,&uot; she said. &uot;She is a great asset to the city.&uot;

Vestal said she enjoys the work.

&uot;The Prentis House is such a beautiful setting and I enjoy meeting all the people who come in to the visitor center,&uot; she said.

Suffolk has much more to offer visitors than most residents realize, Vestal said.

&uot;It has a lot of history it can market,&uot; she continued. &uot;So many cities around the country have bulldozed their historic buildings and built high rises.

&uot;…If things are done right, Suffolk could really take off.&uot;

Name? Pam Vestal.

Age? 46.

Hometown? Great Bridge.

Family? Husband, Don, and daughter, Courtney.

Education? I graduated from Great Bridge High School and recently received my national certification in hospitality operations from the American Hotel and Lodging Association through a program at Norfolk State University.

Career/occupation? Currently, I am customer service manager for the nation’s largest ophthalmic distributor.

Volunteer activities? Work at the Suffolk Visitors Center, located in the historic Prentis House.

Favorite thing about Suffolk? Living on the Nansemond River.

Describe your vision of downtown Suffolk five years from now? Going through downtown Suffolk will be like taking a step back in time, with beautifully renovated buildings.

Why did you pursue your chosen career? I can’t say that I actually pursued my current career! It just happened. I am pursuing a career in the hospitality industry; I enjoy the interaction with people.

Favorite thing about your job? The people.

Least favorite thing about your job? The people!

What accomplishments are you proudest of? I am most proud of the wonderful person my daughter has become. I’d like to believe I contributed.

Who or what motivates and inspires you? People who have the discipline to stay in shape!

Favorite way to spend free time? Haven’t had much of that lately but I enjoy being busy.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with others? Happiness begins from the inside out.

What ingredients are in the recipe for a good life? Good health, good friends and good family.

We all have our 15 minutes of fame in this life. How would you spend your time in the spotlight? Dancing. I’ve actually already had my three or four minutes of fame a few years ago. For Courtney’s 10th year solo dance performance, we danced a duet. I was so proud, so happy!

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Accept people for what they are, not what you want them to be. You can only change yourself.