Beaufort News

Local Life: Young leaders bring energy, perspective

Each year at the annual meeting, United Way of the Lowcountry welcomes new board of directors members to replace those whose terms are expiring. This year Huntley Duryea and Tray Hunter were among those leaving the board, while Katy Phifer and Meredith Keene were welcomed as new members. Meredith will serve as treasurer.

I mention this because these four people represent the newest group of United Way volunteers in our community -- the Emerging Leaders Society, which aims to engage young professionals in issues critical to our community.

These young professionals, most younger than 40, represent the next generation of community leaders. They bring energy, technology and new ideas to every aspect of United Way's work, from community investment through the annual campaign, and they extend their reach by volunteering to work at United Way agencies.

United Way of the Lowcountry's Emerging Leaders list four goals for their organization:

  • To push the "refresh" key and orchestrate new ways of doing business
  • To establish a new energy that resonates with a workforce that looks at the world differently
  • To bring to the table those skills and talents that are unique to those ages 40 and under
  • To solve problems with new tools and technology
  • This year 12 Emerging Leaders are serving on community investment panels, casting their votes on 2012 funding for United Way partner agencies. Two serve on the marketing committee. Many were company coordinators for the 2010 fundraising campaign in their workplaces. Six served on governing boards of United Way partner agencies -- two at Thumbs Up and one each at Lowcountry Boy Scouts, Second Helpings, Born to Read and Friends of Caroline Hospice.

    Katy Phifer, whose brother, Chase Cuppia, also is an Emerging Leader and whose father, Kevin Cuppia, is a past United Way campaign chairman, explained that emerging leaders get the opportunity to work in different areas so they can learn our United Way from top to bottom.

    "We want to bring new ideas, and we want to learn all we can about United Way's work in our community," Katy said.

    Emerging Leaders work in programs and services that focus on literacy, shelter, nutrition, poverty and health issues affecting those in our community with low or moderate income. They envision becoming mentors and tutors for students at all grade levels, continuing to serve on non-profit boards and committees, advocating for vulnerable individuals and families and taking leadership roles in fundraising activities.

    Our local United Way's president, Clarece Walker, is thrilled with the new program.

    "Having the opportunity to work with these young professionals is like hitting the 'refresh' key every day," she said. "Our Emerging Leaders are stepping up, preparing to fill the very large shoes of those who are serving now, and in doing so they are helping to safeguard the future of our community."

    Marge Barber is a retired journalist, community volunteer and former Director of Communications for United Way of the Lowcountry.