BERLIN – The Berlin Intermediate School auditorium was buzzing with the kind of excitement that is generated when it’s filled with young people who are incredibly excited to be there, and that doesn’t even account for the children who were invited to the party. Saturday marked the coming out of the United Way Young Leaders Society, a group of young professionals who want to contribute to the social and philanthropic group in their particular way.
Although the Young Leaders Society is not a new concept for United Way groups around the country, the Lower Eastern Shore chapter hasn’t had one before. The idea of beginning this alternate way for younger professionals to take part in United Way operations came from Lauren Holloway-Laws a Salisbury young professional who thought her demographic had a particular role they could fill.
“A lot of young people want to get involved but they don’t know where to go or where to start,” she said. “We wanted to give their volunteerism an outlet.”
Holloway-Laws approached United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore executive director Kathleen Momme about starting a group, a notion Momme endorsed immediately and wholeheartedly.
“The energy of these young professionals is incredible,” she said.
The Young Leaders Society grew quickly without really having to be promoted. By friends inviting friends the society reached around 200 members before they’d even held their first function. Friends invited friends to join and before too long the group was planning its first event.
The criteria for joining the Young Leaders Society requires a minor commitment of funds and a significant commitment of time and energy. The membership fee, if it can be called that, requires a $250 pledge to the United Way over the course of the year. Young Leaders Society members are expected to help put together and host the group’s events and generally help promote the United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore more generally.
The planning and execution of what would be their first event, last Saturday’s Valentine’s Day Carnival for needy and at-risk children, fell to Community Impact Committee chairs Kennedy Soper and Brandy White.
Soper was particularly proud of how easily the volunteers came into line to help make the carnival happen.
“It’s a big volunteer project,” she said. “It really came together in a month and a half.”
The carnival included face-painting and cookie decorating stations, there were active and passive games like bean bag toss and bingo, and there was even a table filled with games and toys to be given away as door prizes.
“We actually want to make this an annual event,” White said.
The children came from a list of many of the charities and non-profits the United Way sponsors and supports including CASA, Worcester County Youth and Family Services, and Diakonia.
The Young Leaders Society plans to hold five events of this type around the region over the course of the year, marshaling both their enthusiasm and their personal and professional resources to add to the United Way’s already impressive list of sponsorships.