By Ashley Richardson
After living in Florida for seven years and finally moving back to North Carolina, I was looking for a way to re-connect with people my age and get more involved in the Charlotte community. A colleague of mine and our current president, David Hoffman, introduced me to the Junior Chamber and invited me to a General Membership meeting. I was expecting to go to a typical networking event where I could shake a few hands and be handed a few business cards.
From the beginning I realized I would gain a lot more than business cards. Everyone was welcoming and it was an easy environment to feel comfortable in as a guest. Not only did that impress me, but I was also impressed by the numerous opportunities for members and guests to directly reach out to the community and have an impact on relevant issues. I attended a few more events as a guest, including the M-Night social at The Wine Loft, and within a month I was a new member.
Fast forward another month and I was signed up to chair my first project – American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life for Central Mecklenburg County. Getting the chance to work with other members and guests, as well as manage a committee for this event, taught me more than I could learn from most books. The leadership skills and organizational skills I gained through this experience have translated into my career and given me more confidence to pursue my goals.
Within a year of being a member, I have developed some of my best working relationships and closest friends. Although our chapter is diverse in our member’s backgrounds, careers, and interests, working with our members to achieve a goal and help solve a problem in our community has been a great way to meet new people and make new friendships. I’ve found that I do in fact have a lot in common with other Junior Chamber members – first and foremost being our desire to help grow and improve the Charlotte community.
Editors Note: Ashley was recently elected to serve on the board as a Community Development Director.