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Bettering Self With Community Service

February 22, 2012
By ZACH MACORMAC - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Some of the most successful professionals agree that putting service above self, particularly when it comes to the betterment of the local community, is one of the best ways to excel not only in their occupations, but in life.

As 20- and 30-year-olds begin to establish themselves in their careers, they may be asked to serve on a nonprofit's board of directors. What advantages can one find through service to agencies such as the Salvation Army, Family Service of the Upper Ohio Valley or others?

For one thing, service on a nonprofit board can serve as a vital learning tool about how the local community operates. It also helps young professionals to network with others in the business community.

Article Photos

Photo by Zach Macormac
The 2012 participants in the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership Wheeling Program include, front from left, Heidi Sforza, Shelly Thomas, Lorri Grisell, Kellie Cole, Paula Pervall, Christopher Elswick and Alex Coogan. In back from left are Ann Coleman, Neil Coffield, Candice Stadler, Brian Robb, Pat McGeehan and Debora Jones.

Participating in programs such as Leadership Wheeling also helps to establish young professionals in their careers along with teaching them plenty about the local community.

Since 1987, Leadership Wheeling has graduated about 600 people who have moved forward into various leadership positions.

Wheeling Chamber of Commerce President Terry Sterling said graduates of the program learn everything from how the media operates to local politics to industry and commercial business. From January to May each year, a class will tour various places such as coal mines, steel plants and large community investors such as Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Pandhandle Cleaning and Restoration.

Fact Box

Q: What advantage can someone in their 20s or 30s find through programs such as Leadership Wheeling or through service on a nonprofit board?

A: Networking is the most noticeable advantage, but, as one grows in board service, a sense of community involvement also materializes that can help a person grow not only in their profession, but in life.

Sterling noted the biggest advantage, however, is the networking opportunity. Chamber surveys showed 70 percent of Leadership Wheeling graduates stayed in the area.

"It speaks highly of the quality of life and opportunity here," he said.

The advantages are "self-betterment and betterment of the community as a whole," said Alex Coogan, who is currently enrolled and represents Monoceros Properties. "By bettering one's self, they become better leaders and role models. If I'm performing my best, my staff performs better."

Throughout the valley, there are dozens of nonprofit boards seeking new members. Going through a program such as Leadership Wheeling can help to establish your credentials for service on such boards.

Kathleen Frank has served on the board for local Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Neighborhood Center on 18th Street, Wheeling. She said during her time serving the Boy Scouts, the board made decisions in renovating the Sandscrest Scout Reservation just outside Wheeling on GC&P Road.

"You can make big decisions to move something in the right direction," Frank said. "You can apply your skills on a board to move projects forward."

She added the benefits of serving a board primarily include networking with those who have similar interests as well as gratification of helping others. And as she said, at times leadership changes and mission updates for agencies need to be handled.

Mimi Parsons was installed as board president for the Children's Museum of the Ohio Valley in January. She said her passion for the museum led her to serve the board, but she said the personal benefits are more for her family. Her son, Mac, has a place to play and explore every day as she works, making family life a little easier.

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