Charleston West Virginia Economic Development

Discussions on Economic and Community Development in West Virginia and the Charleston MSA as well as issues of the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The article below appeared April 16 in the Charleston Daily Mail

Volunteer Group Connects Emerging Leaders

by Cara Bailey
Daily Mail staff

For a young professional in Charleston looking to build connections in the community and perhaps make a friend or two, Generation Charleston has 600 ways to help.

Generation Charleston, the group formed in 2006 to help young professionals network and give back to the city, now has more than 600 members, and plenty of room for more.

"This is a wonderful group of emerging leaders who genuinely care about Charleston and have taken an active role in improving the city and state," Generation Charleston Co-chair Emily Bennington said. "The group is really working hard to bring young professionals back to Charleston. Not only that, but giving them cause to stay."

Bennington, the director of marketing and development for Dixon Hughes PLLC, has been active in the group since its inception and is currently working as co-chair with Kate McCoy.

One stigma the group is trying hard to break is that it's necessary for young people to leave the state to succeed. Bennington said Generation Charleston is working to change the perception that there are "no opportunities for young professionals in the region."

The group now functions as a vehicle to help young professionals get directly involved in different areas of the city.

"Generation Charleston is the voice of young professionals in the Kanawha Valley," McCoy said. "The goal is to make it a better place to work and live ultimately."

Generation Charleston has six teams, focusing on communication, community outreach, housing, membership, professional development and special events, which allow everyone to engage in different activities.

One of the largest teams is the community outreach branch, which provides community service.
The group does four projects a year. The most recent was a Kanawha River cleanup that involved 60 volunteers picking up trash along the riverbank.

The group also did a fundraiser at Vandalia Grille that raised $2,500 for the Childhood Language Center.

"There have always been young professionals here that wanted to get involved and engaged, they just didn't know how, didn't have the framework for it - people didn't know where to start," Bennington said. "Generation Charleston is one of the vehicles able to do this service and have a voice."

The group recently started a special sub-committee that helps connect interested young professionals to boards and committees of non-profit groups around town that are in need of board members.

"This gives young professionals a seat at the table when it comes to decisions that have a real impact on our area," Bennington said.

"People would be surprised how many young people are very dedicated to the City of Charleston and willing to spend time doing service projects," McCoy said.

Debby Weinstein, the executive director for the YWCA, has seen Generation Charleston in action on several projects.

Weinstein is a member of the group's advisory committee, but she has also seen members help at the YWCA.

They've worked at the homeless shelter, painted at Sojourners shelter, sorted through clothing at the YWCA's gently used clothing store, which supports battered women and homeless women and children, and many other projects.

"They are doing remarkable volunteer work," Weinstein said. "These people are taking their energy, harnessing it and doing things. It's just a marvelous group."

Weinstein, who moved to Charleston in 1982 when she was in her mid-20s, said she had trouble then meeting people her own age, and a group like Generation Charleston would have helped.

"This is something that wasn't here when I was a young person in Charleston," she said. "If there were professionals my age in the community, I didn't know them, didn't see them. I wasn't networked with people my age, and it made it a little disheartening."

Weinstein said she urges every young person, whether they work in an office building or a different kind of job site, to join Generation Charleston to meet people and network in a way that was not available until just a couple of years ago.

The group also is devoted to making change in the city. Each year it adopts one specific project or group and works all year long on that endeavor.

After several options were presented this year, McCoy said the group voted to adopt the Gateway Greenspace Project.

The greenspace is to be built at the corner of Leon Sullivan Way and Washington Street in downtown Charleston.

McCoy said Generation Charleston is planning to host a block party May 1 to kick off construction on the project. Then, in the fall, members plan to get their hands dirty by planting bushes, trees, and doing other site work.

Generation Charleston operates as a branch of the Charleston Area Alliance. While there is no official age restriction, McCoy said the ages of group member range from about 25 to 40 years old.


Post a Comment

<< Home