The United Way of the Lowcountry hopes to inject youth and vitality into the volunteer corps of local charities this holiday season.
The nonprofit organization will hold a wine-tasting and networking event for young professionals from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Michael Anthony's Cucina Italiana restaurant on Hilton Head Island. The aim is to enlist members for its 40 Under Forty Emerging Leaders group. Those attending are asked to bring an unwrapped toy to support toy drives by Bluffton Self Help or The Deep Well Project.
"There are so many young people in the Lowcountry contributing positively in their workplace and neighborhood," Emerging Leaders chairwoman Courtney Hampson said. "We want to help them become more involved in the community and discover opportunities to find balance in their lives by seeing what's of interest to them outside of the workday."
Hilton Head resident Ryan Mikkelson, 33, found himself in a dilemma more than two years ago.
Growing work and family demands were taking up precious time and money, but Mikkelson wanted to do more to help people in need.
So he joined Emerging Leaders, a group of 21- to 40-year-olds that helps raise money, advocate and volunteer for United Way and the 44 agencies and programs in Jasper and Beaufort counties it supports. Its mission is to inspire young professionals to share their time and resources to improve their community.
Each member serves on a panel that recommends how to disburse money raised during United Way's annual campaign.
"This group is a great way to understand what's happening in the community and what the needs are," Mikkelson said. "It's a good way to see which nonprofit best suits you and see the impact United Way is making, as well as the nonprofits it supports."
Members serve three-year terms and agree to volunteer at least 40 hours a year and contribute $40, $140 or $240 to United Way.
Meetings are kept to 40 minutes and emails to 40 words, said Bethany Marcinkowski, United Way director of resource development.
Together, group members work to raise $3,000 and recruit 40 volunteers to help tutor young readers.
"The median age is 60 for members on a number of nonprofit boards in the area," Marcinkowski said. The boards, made up primarily of retirees, "need to hear from a younger generation that has different perspectives, experiences and backgrounds."
"It's hard at a young age to give a substantial amount of income to these nonprofits," she added, "but they can give their time and talents to enhance and improve these boards."
For more information or to reserve a spot at Tuesday's event, call Marcinkowski at 843-837-2000.