By TERRENCE DWYER
Messenger staff writer
The Fort Dodge Young Professionals group has a multifaceted agenda. The organization is partially a social enterprise, but also plays a major role in assisting a wide array of community betterment initiatives succeed.
Jared Smith, president of the Young Professionals group, poses on the stairs at Phillips Middle School where he is the assistant principal. Smith said one of his goals is to get group members more involved in the community.
"I view it as a mix of different things," said Jared Smith, assistant principal at Phillips Middle School, who is the current YP president. "Yes, there are some social aspects to it, but I also see it as a networking thing. I see it as volunteering. For the 2011 year, we did more volunteer events and sponsorships than we did social events."
In 2011, the Fort Dodge Young Professionals held 13 social events, provided volunteer help to 15 worthwhile community projects and events and was a sponsor of 10 events, according to Smith. He said even the social events usually have a charitable dimension.
"If it's $15 for the event, we'll donate $5 to a charity," Smith said. Further examples he said included asking attendees at the annual meeting in December to bring canned foods for charitable giving and requesting people attending the annual sledding party to bring a donation of warm clothing for people in need.
Continuing to provide strong support of a multitude of endeavors that strengthen the community will continue to be a major focus in the year ahead, Smith said.
"We did a lot of volunteer events last year," he said. "This year, we're going to get the dates out early and really try to get the numbers of volunteers up for each event."
The organization stands ready to lend a hand to a diverse assortment of undertakings.
"If we get enough time and we feel it benefits the community, we say 'yes' to almost everything," Smith said. "We want to do as much as we can. ... One of my goals is to get more members, more involved in more things."
Smith said the group has a mission statement that captures well its essence. It reads: "Fort Dodge Young Professionals is organized to improve the quality of life and economic development of Fort Dodge through the retention and recruitment of young professionals in the greater Fort Dodge area."
Formally incorporated in 2005, the organization typically has between 90 and 100 people on its membership roles. Smith said the members reflect a broad cross-section of occupations and ages. Most are in the 21-to-50 age bracket.
The organization's official goals include "retaining young professionals in Fort Dodge, developing leaders through education and support, creating fun opportunities for community enjoyment and supporting local volunteer organizations."
Values it champions include professionalism, integrity, philanthropy, entrepreneurial spirit, dedication and commitment according to its membership application form.
Matt Johnson, the immediate past president Fort Dodge Young Professionals, explained the important role the group plays in the community in a guest column that was published in The Messenger on March 27, 2011.
"This is a group of individuals who provide philanthropic and social activities to engage young adults in our community," he wrote. "We realize the importance of addressing the needs and concerns of this demographic and want them to feel vested and at home in our community. This is a fun organization that recognizes that people in their 20s, 30s and 40s are beginning careers and families, and need ways to meet one another and have things to do."
That importance of helping newcomers develop ties to the community was stressed by Smith. He said his own experience was typical of many YP members, noting that when his work brought him to Fort Dodge he knew few people and had no social or family ties to the community. Joining the Young Professionals helped him quickly develop a sense of belonging to the community, he said.
Each issue of Fort Dodge Business Review includes a profile of a YP member. In the February 2012 issue, Michael Payne, general manager of Olde Boston's Restaurant and Pub, stressed that as the economic development of Fort Dodge and Webster County progresses the contributions of this group will be critical.
"I see the Young Professionals playing a big role in networking young people that will be moving to town in the future with all the new development that we have been seeing in the last six years and the next many years," Payne said.
The Messenger's Nov. 19, 2010, report of the group's annual meeting included comments by Matt Bemrich, the current mayor of Fort Dodge and the first president of the Fort Dodge Young Professionals. The perspective he shared with those attending that meeting underlines Payne's point and makes it clear the organization is also important to people whose families have long lived here.
"I had to decide, was I going to stay or move away," Bemrich said, reflecting on his own life story. "This is my hometown. My kids are the fourth generation in the family to attend the Catholic schools in town. I was the third generation in the family business."
Bemrich said helping found and build the Young Professionals strengthened his resolve to remain part of the community. He said the group is having a similar impact on others.
The Business Review profiles of other Young Professionals members published during recent months include observations that reveal a broad consensus regarding the organization's value.
The Fort Dodge Young Professionals has a 10-member board of directors. It includes Jared Smith, president; Tom Richardson, vice president; Ashley O'Brion, secretary; Michael Payne, treasurer; Matt Johnson, immediate past president; Nicole Ciccotti, Jill George, Cody Peterson and Dena Sample. There was one vacancy as of press time. The membership fee is $25 per year.
Contact Terrence Dwyer at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org