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Chamber program encourages leadership

Our area periodically goes through a changing of the guard, so to speak, when it comes to community service and guiding some of our clubs and local non-profits.

People are involved in a particular organization for several years, decide to step away, and there’s not always someone new ready to take over. Public service has become increasingly important to me over the years, especially as I’ve had the opportunity to see more of what these individuals, clubs and organizations do within our communities.

Their memberships have waxed and waned, and, unfortunately, some have ceased to exist because of a lack of interest. Just look back on your lives and think about the groups, or even some of the events, from our area which are no longer around.

There are always going to be opportunities out there, whether you want to join a club, volunteer with an organization or even run for public office. You might not always know where to look, though.

One of the avenues available is the Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Ohio Valley program.

I went through the program 15 years ago, then found myself getting involved with the chamber and a few other local groups. For full disclosure, part of that involvement is serving as chair of the chamber’s Education Committee which organizes Leadership, and also as a member of the board of directors.

Through Leadership, I learned more about the efforts of the Salvation Army to meet the needs of our neighbors, opened myself up more to our local history – much of which I never heard about in school – visited local businesses and learned more about our area’s educational and healthcare systems.

Just as important, I made several connections for my work life as a result of the networking in the program, and quite a few life-long friends.

In the years since, I’ve watched as dozens of participants have gone through the program. Like the rest of life, there have been good times and bad, but they’ve found ways to come together, learning more about themselves and others, working to contribute to the community, forming bonds of their own and taking on greater challenges.

Some of you may have heard about a Young Professionals group which has formed recently. Most of its founding members are graduates of Leadership Ohio Valley who wanted to continue to work together and serve our region in their own way.

Other graduates have become involved in grassroots volunteer efforts in recent months.

I bring all of this up because the chamber is in the process of recruiting for the next class of Leadership Ohio Valley. The Education Committee has the names of a few people who have expressed interest, but we are always looking for more. The Class of 2023 will begin their journey the afternoon of Nov. 3, with some ice breaker activities and a welcome dinner. Their first session will take place the next day. I won’t say much about that session, because I don’t want to ruin the experience, but it’s always interesting to see the reactions of participants as they are faced with the situations given to them.

In my mind, it is a great opportunity to learn more about ourselves and what is available out there if you are interested in taking on a larger role, whether at your job or in your hometown. If you are interested, check with your employer to see if they are willing to sponsor you. If you already are a member of a local civic organization, they also can sponsor you.

I’m hoping to see a great class forming in the coming months.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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