By Walter L. Johnson II
“Getting young adult professionals between 21 and 40 years old “plugged in” to what’s going on in the Albany area.”
That’s been the mission statement of Emerge Albany since it was founded in 2007. It’s a network sponsored by the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.
An assistant to the president of the Chamber, Jenny Collins has been involved with Emerge Albany from the beginning.
“Emerge Albany just allows an opportunity for young professionals to network with each other, get involved with the community, and community services, grow professionally with a professional development aspect, and to socialize with other young professionals that are striving to do go in the community they live in,” Collins said.
Justin Strickland, who works for the Albany/Dougherty County Economic Development Commission as the director of special projects, has seen Emerge Albany go from about 100 members to more than 300 in the network’s three-year plus existence.
“I’ve been kind of in the group from the inception, all the way to now, ” Strickland explained. “It’s been good to get to know the people that are in the group, and to really see it progress from just a small group of people, to see it get started, to where it is today, with lots of active members, lots of people participating.”
“It’s just great to see the programs that have grown out of Emerge (Albany), such as our monthly luncheons that we do, (where) we have speakers,” Strickland added. “Then we have the different professional networking events that we have, so it has been a good group to be a part of.”
EDC Marketing Director Barbara Rivera Holmes says having a resource such as Emerge Albany is vital to the continued economic development of Albany/Dougherty County.
“Emerge Albany is a fantastic organization, and it fills a need here in Albany/Dougherty County,” Holmes said, “to make sure that our young professionals are plugged in to, and in tune with this community, and helping it to grow.”
“Floating the Flint”, and other ways to “Explore Albany”
One of the many activities that Emerge Albany has been involved so far in 2010 is the “101 Ways to Explore Albany”, an initiative that continues through the end of this year. It’s something that Lily Pad forensic interviewer and Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer coordinator Sara Garver has particularly enjoyed.
“One of my favorite events this year is one that we just had,” Garver said. “(On the weekend of July 31), we did “Float the Flint”, and then we had a “family reunion” afterwards, and it was a lot of fun.”
“We met at (a) Flint River outpost, on Saturday morning, and we had a great time,” added Garver. “We had about 20 of us that went down the river, and we all went down in canoes, so there was two of us, one canoe had three people in it, but we had a blast, and I would recommend that trip to anyone.”
“It was really hot, and the views from the water were gorgeous, and just to see what we have here in Albany was really, really cool, it was a great opportunity to see Albany first hand, and just to kind of see the environment that we live in,” Garver continued. “Afterwards, we had the “family reunion”, and that was just a fun time where we all ate, and had some fruit punch, and water, and cool off, and got to know one another a little bit better, so it was a really cool activity.”
Holmes says the activities that Emerge Albany puts together serves a purpose of getting to know what Albany is all about.
“It’s about getting to know the things and people that maybe we don’t take the time to explore and get to know everyday, or that we just don’t even know about, ” she explained. “We’ve been fortunate to tour some great facilities in Albany; the Flint RiverQuarium, the Wetherbee Planetarium, Thronateeska, (and) the Albany Civil Rights Institute, just to name a few.”
Helping those in need
Among the civic/nonprofit organizations that Emerge Albany has worked with, according to Holmes, include “the Anchorage, and with Graceway,” adding that “through our members, we held a professional clothing drive, and we opened to women in our community, had donation boxes set up all around the community, and here at the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce building. We collected a lot a clothing for men and women looking to re-enter the workforce.”
As the volunteer coordinator for CASA, Garver has a new role, making the community aware of what being an advocate for abused and neglected children involves.
“I am in charge of getting out in the community, and talking about CASA, and educating the community on what CASA is,” Garver said. “CASA stands for “Court Appointed Special Advocate, and we work one-on-one with juvenile court, with neglect and child abuse cases.”
A ‘must’ group to join
Between the various activities and networking opportunities it provides, members say Emerge Albany is a “must” group to join, according to Garver.
“I would encourage anybody that’s between the ages of 21 and 40 to try to get plugged in to Emerge,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity, and it’s just a lot of fun.”
Holmes expects Emerge Albany’s membership, as well as outreach to continue to grow.
“Emerge Albany is a fantastic organization, and we’ve seen it grow,” Holmes said
“We’ve seen it do good things for our community, we’ve seen our numbers grow because of our programming, and we as an organization will continue to do that, and continue to make ourselves better, and continue to make our community better.”
Collins also expects continued growth with the Emerge Albany initiative for the rest of this year.
“Our membership has grown from over 100 folks, and we’re sitting about 350 members, so it has been an amazing year for us this year,” she said.