YPO groups give back, invest in community

Via the Dallas Morning News

For some young professionals in East Dallas, networking is not just about the people they can meet, it’s about the people they help.

Over the past couple of years, the area has seen several new groups formed that are geared toward young professionals.

While some, such as the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center’s Alliance group or Vogel Alcove’s Flight, are under the umbrellas of local nonprofits, others, such as East Dallas Young Professionals, which is affiliated with the Greater East Dallas Chamber of Commerce, are business-oriented. All have a component of service.

“This young professionals group is going to play a key role,” said Greg Brinkley, 36, director of corporate relations with Vogel Alcove. “If you can imagine, as we start building this membership out and all the connections these people have … this group can really affect what our mission is and our future as an organization.”

On Jan. 20, a group of 40 volunteers worked to beautify the playground at Vogel Alcove’s new location at old City Park Elementary. In two-and-a-half hours, the group covered the space in tons of mulch.

“They’re very much go-getters,” said Sammy Gonzalez, 33, director of marketing for Vogel Alcove.

Flight, which is open to young professionals of all ages, is still spreading its wings it held its first event in November but discussions for a group go back at least a year, when a couple of people reached out to Karen Hughes, Vogel Alcove’s president and CEO.

“When I reached out to Karen, it was to get something that actually had my heart and not just my wallet,” said Chrystal Morgan, who is co-president of Flight with Mary Lyons. “Something that I was completely interested in being a part of.”

Lyons, 32, said the group’s focus on helping kids was a draw for her, too.

“I’ve lived in Dallas for seven years, and I’ve been looking for something to get really involved with,” Lyons said.

The group includes members from diverse backgrounds, all united around helping the children that Vogel Alcove serves.

“We’re bonding over doing something that’s good for the community,” Lyons said. “What this group really seems to attract, to me, are people that have very, very good hearts and they all care about someone other than themselves we all have that commonality of being altruistic.”

So far, they have a governing board of 23 people, and a membership list of about 30 more.

“I am so excited and I’m so fortunate to be associated with this group of people,” Morgan, 28, said.

While Flight members have gotten their hands dirty helping Vogel Alcove prepare its new home, the Alliance group has worked in other ways to serve the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center.

“We have several members who do ongoing volunteering at the center and we’re trying to build up the program to have more volunteer projects,” said Mallory Bassham, 27, a development associate with DCAC who helps oversee Alliance. “Every event we’ve held, we’ve done a call to action.”

The group, which is also for professionals of all ages, held a toy drive for the center as part of its holiday party, helps with fundraising events and, like Flight, seeks to raise awareness about the center’s mission to help abused children in Dallas County.

“[I] felt that it was a good cause,” said Lauren Soulis, 30, who has been involved with Alliance from its beginning. “I’m involved because I genuinely care.”

Alliance was started in the fall of 2012, and has grown to about 100 members from the initial group of about 40, Bassham said.

“The response has been really positive, and we’re excited about the number of people who’ve gotten involved,” Soulis said.

While East Dallas Young Professionals isn’t a tied to a specific nonprofit, serving the community is a goal for it, too, said Ross Williams, its president.

“One of our commitments is community service we did three service days in our first year,” he said. “One of the things we’re going to do on a yearly basis is the National Day of Service.”

The East Dallas group, like Alliance, is a little over a year old. It was started as a way to give East Dallas businessmen and women under 40 a way to connect with the community and one another. Williams, 31, said they try to hold two happy hour events and a luncheon each quarter to bring people together.

“One of the things that is important for us is to create future leaders,” said Karla Lott, 33, who serves as the group’s treasurer. “We are the future of East Dallas and we want to get people involved and let them know.”

Williams said people moving into Dallas and North Texas for the opportunities it offers, along with a push from chambers and other professional development organizations, are two of the reasons more groups are popping up for young business people. He said it’s also a way for people to become part of where they live.

“People want to be involved in the community,” he said.