Allison Mee

CHARLES TOWN—Hollywood Toastmasters not only helps people develop public speaking skills, but the organization tried a new theme this month: keeping civil during stressful times.

“Setting the Table for Civility,” was an online presentation by the nonprofit Oct. 19, but the tips from it are worth repeating as families get together for the holidays.

“I wanted to help families get through any challenges when they gather. They have to be focused on being respectful and patient,” said Alison Mee, the vice president of Hollywood Toastmasters, who gave the speech on civility.

With differences concerning opinions about the upcoming election and politics in general, for example, many families refuse to even share a Thanksgiving dinner together.

“It helps to stick to a structure. Decide in advance where people will sit. Have a ‘safe place,’ a certain room or a porch where difficult discussions or hard arguments can take place. The family member can say something like, ‘I need a porch chat,’ and go to that safe place for the discussion. Get their words out without interruptions,” Mee said.

Hollywood Toastmasters was established five years ago through a partnership between Blue Ridge Community College in Martinsburg and Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. It is a local branch of Toastmaster International, an education organization that teaches leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Toastmasters International began in 1924 and is headquartered in Englewood, Colorado. It has more than 364,000 members in more than 16,200 clubs in 145 countries.

Hollywood Toastmasters is the first club in the Eastern Panhandle. It has virtual meetings on the first and third Mondays of the month at 10:35 a.m. Members can take advantage of online educational materials to aid in development of speaking skills in professional situations.

“We have different member speakers and guests at each meeting,” Mee said. “The members can develop confidence and improve their public speaking skills in a friendly environment. We’re a little local group [nine members] but you can make connections with regional networking even international networking.”

Mee, a Shannondale resident, joined Hollywood Toastmasters two years ago.

“I had been home raising kids and needed business skills,” she said.

What she learned not only has guided her to reach out to families with ways to keep a peaceful holiday but has also helped her professionally, aiding the community in yet a different way.

“I’ve been coalition coordinator for the OnTrack! Anti-Drug Coalition since May 2019. OnTrack! is an initiative of the Eastern Regional Family Resource Network (FRN). There are multiple FRNs in the area.   We currently have presence in Jefferson, Berkeley, Hampshire, Mineral, Grant, Hardy, and Pendleton Counties. Community coalitions bring many types of people together to build a stronger, healthier community. Toastmasters helped me build confidence as I developed from volunteer work to paid work in the prevention field,” Mee said.

For more information about Hollywood Toastmasters, go to the website at

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