(pictured above: Young Professionals (from left, front row): Courtney Grant, Cheavonne Willis, Amyia Hardy, Andrea Free, Kismet Loftin-Bell with (back row) Marcus Lane, Dominique Grate, Walter Farabee and Chris Smith.)
Members of the Winston-Salem Urban League Young Professionals gathered at the Old Winston Social Club on Burke Street Saturday night to celebrate the holiday season and a banner year.
The UL Young Professionals reorganized in September and reemerged with a new Board of Directors and a renewed energy to further the group’s mission, which is not only to give 21-45-year-olds a chance to network but also to serve the community through various projects and initiatives.
The Holiday Extravaganza – which was billed as a chance to kick back, relax and, of course, network for current and potential Young Professionals members – offered a welcome opportunity for the members to do a little fundraising and celebrate their accomplishments of late.
“I’m trying to get Winston-Salem kind of going again, and we’re off to a great start,” declared Chapter President Cheavonne Willis. “…We’re up to 50 members, which is great – that is record numbers – and we’ve only been (recruiting) for two months.”
Since its rebirth, the group has managed to attract professionals from a broad cross-section of fields and support a variety of causes, from food drives to a get-out-the-vote efforts and phone banking to inform seniors about Urban League Medicare information sessions.
“We’ve done a lot in the past few months,” said Willis, a senior sourcing consultant at BB&T. “With this new, fresh energy, I know we’re going to continue to do a lot of great things.”
Former local chapter president Kismet Loftin-Bell is working to breathe new life into the Triangle Urban League Young Professionals, which was inactive for years after the Triangle Urban League closed its doors. The Winston-Salem Urban League revived the Triangle office and now serves the section of the state from Hickory to Wake County.
“We have expanded our network – we are building not only our Winston-Salem chapter but we’re in the process of building the Greensboro chapter and the Triangle chapter,” explained Loftin-Bell, the Urban League’s Triangle region VP.
Loftin-Bell, who has been involved with Young Professionals for six years, says the group is a valuable resource not only for the members themselves, but for the community as a whole.
“We’re the next generation of civil rights leaders,” she declared. “In order to ensure that civil rights and social justice continue to live on, you need to be able to build the next generation of leaders.”
Marcus Lane only recently joined the Young Professionals, but says the group has already had a positive impact on his career.
“I actually just started a real estate investment company called Wood & Lane and I actually met my realtor and my closing attorney through Young Professionals,” he revealed. “We just closed on our first property last week.”
Lane, who also serves as a conflicts research coordinator at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, said being involved with the group has enhanced both his personal and professional life.
“I love it, it’s like a family,” remarked the 31-year-old. “It’s like a unity type organization where everybody’s trying to help everybody else out.”
The group has opened his eyes to a whole new world of networking, added Lane.
“Before I joined, I had no idea there was this many young black professionals in Winston-Salem, and I’ve been here all my life,” noted the High Point University alumnus. “There’s been a lot of connections made that have helped me start my business.”
Chris Smith, president of Upstate South Carolina Urban League Young Professionals made the trek from Greenville, S.C. to help the local chapter celebrate. Smith, an human resources manager for Kroger, said he was impressed by the strides the group has made in such a short time.
“I think it’s great to start from ground zero and grow to the number of members that they have,” Smith remarked. “The plan is to keep that going, and by continuing to have events like this, they’ll be able to do it.”
Young Professional dues are $40 a year. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find “Winston-Salem Urban League Young Professionals” on Facebook.