At Five Years, RYP Has Become a Motivating Force

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By Steve Peters

It’s been an exciting summer for Rutland Young Professionals. For starters, we recently celebrated five years as an organization.

When I moved to Rutland seven years ago, RYP had yet to exist, though the interest and effort to get such a group going was already percolating. And that was lucky for me. I spent my first several months in Rutland mostly keeping to myself and volunteering at my out-of-town AmeriCorps position.

It wasn’t until I started attending events of the previous and current iteration of Rutland’s young professionals groups that I met many of the friends I have in Rutland today and obtained at least two of the jobs I’ve had in the past several years. Then it wasn’t long before I got involved with the organization and then joined the board in 2014.

In other words, there’s tremendous value in what we do, especially now, at a time when our community is actively looking to attract a younger demographic to help balance Vermont’s aging population. Had I not met the people I did through RYP or benefited from its mere existence, it’s likely I would have left town.

To be honest, I never planned to stay here as long as I have. But I’ve learned a couple of things in my time in Rutland. One, there is no shortage of opportunities to get involved and make a difference. And two, you don’t get to complain if you’re not contributing in some way. Even then, complaining does little to improve anything and it perpetuates frustration.

Yet, it’s my personal experiences with the organization that keep me motivated to further RYP’s mission. I was happy to take over the role of board president this summer, though skeptical I could fill the shoes of our past presidents: Will Gormly, Sara Gilbert and Katye Munger, who helped lead all that we’ve accomplished thus far.

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Luckily, we have a strong board, and six new board members recently joined the effort as well, including: Erin Anderson, Travis Beauchamp, Shannon Poole, Kim Rupe, Joshua Lake and Charles Romeo. I look forward to working with them over the next year, along with existing board members: Laura Pierce, Lyz Tomsuden, Will Gormly and Leslie Doenges. It’s certainly a talented and dedicated group!

As I’ve also learned in my time in Rutland and involvement with various nonprofit organizations, there’s the constant expectation of needing to do more. On one hand, that’s good. I firmly believe that stagnation is the path to becoming obsolete. On the other hand, continuing to take on more and more is a great way to burn out a nonprofit that is likely operating with limited resources and staff. Or — in the case of RYP — no staff. Everything that we do is more or less done entirely by the efforts of our volunteer board members. For five years we’ve existed without a paid staff member and a rather small budget for the difference I believe we’re making in the community. That’s a huge impact. But the key is finding a way to make it sustainable.

Rather than focusing on how we can do more, I like to start with looking at how can we do better. That’s why, a few months back, our board took the time to evaluate our strengths, weaknesses and everything in between. A SWAT analysis is always a hefty task. You have to stop patting yourself on the back for a bit and recognize what isn’t being done well and what you’re missing out on. It can be awkward, but it’s something that organizations should always take the time to do periodically.

Out of that effort, we set some goals for the coming months that I feel good about. I believe they’re realistic and achievable. While doing more and doing better aren’t mutually exclusive, it’s my hope that we can improve the many programs and services we’re already offering before adding more to the plate of a group of volunteers. That’s why our goals include items such as improving and growing our relationships with our members, making sure we’re effectively communicating what it is we’re doing, finding ways to make our events unique and appealing and ensuring our future sustainability.

Steve Peters is the new board president of RYP. He is also the Executive Director of the Downtown Rutland Partnership, a board member of the Rutland Area Food Co-op, a local writer and a cooking and gardening enthusiast.

Membership Matters!

By Will Gormly

The Rutland Young Professionals has always believed in being as inclusive as possible. Despite the name, our events are attended by folks of all ages and backgrounds. The way we figure it, as long as you are working toward a future in the Rutland region, you’ve come to the right spot.

That said, Rutland Young Professionals is legally recognized as a nonprofit membership organization. This designation means that we need to have bylaws, a governing board, and a defined member base to vote on our policies and leadership team. Thus we created the registered membership program. By definition, to become a registered member of the Rutland Young Professionals, you need to live or work in Rutland County, be between the ages of 18 and 45, and pay yearly dues of $25.

As a registered member of the Rutland Young Professionals, you are entitled to a set of benefits. The first and foremost is the legal right to participate in governance. Registered members have the right to propose bylaws changes, vote at our annual meeting and run for a position on the board of directors. On top of this, we added a few fun perks to registered membership. Members get discounted tickets at our yearly Gala, early access to RYP Meet-Ups and special events that have a limited number of participants, and special discounts from the Rutland business community.

The $25 we collect from membership dues also goes into funding our Professional Development Grant Program. The Rutland Young Professionals designed this program to offer financial assistance to those in the area who are pursuing career advancement. Funds are distributed to applicants who, for example, are taking a photography class at Stafford in order to help with their marketing career, getting their Automotive Service Excellence certification, attending an HR professional’s trade conference, or any activity that assists in building a career in the Rutland region.

We recognize that some folks may want to support the Rutland Young Professionals, but fall outside of the age range, or don’t live or work in the area. To accommodate this, we created the Friend of RYP. This designation carries all the same perks as a registered member, but without the right to vote, or apply for the grant program.

Since the beginning of our membership organization status two years ago, we have signed up a combined total of 275 registered members and friends of RYP. Every week we continue to see new and renewing names added to the list. Despite our early concerns that a paid membership model would be a turnoff to the RYP community, it has only garnered positive feedback. Registered membership has provided our community an opportunity to buy in and show their support for our mission.

If you, or somebody you know, is interested in becoming a registered member or friend of RYP, you can register at www.rutlandyoungprofessionals.org/membership. If you are interested at getting more involved with the Rutland Young Professionals, or have any questions please feel free to contact us at info@rutlandyoungprofessionals.org

We would also like to invite you to our next Mix at Live Love Yoga on May 24 at 6 p.m.

Will Gormly is president of the Rutland Young Professionals board of directors.

The RYP Gala

By Leslie Doenges

In our first column, board president-elect, Steve Peters, shared with you who the Rutland Young Professionals are, what we are about and a little bit about what we do. As we are fast approaching one of our signature events, the RYP Gala, I invite you to read more about what this celebration is and what it means to our organization.

On Friday, April 20, the Rutland Young Professionals will host its second annual Gala at the Mountain Top Inn & Resort in Chittenden. This event was conceptualized as a way to bring our membership and supporters together for a dynamic evening and celebration. Although on the surface it may appear to be just a big party (which it will be!) the significance of the Gala is much deeper. 

As an organization we strive to bring the young professionals of our community together through our networking opportunities. We also work to connect local businesses with our demographic and create strong relationships from which we can all benefit. The Gala is the perfect avenue to bring all these people together in one place for an evening of fun and entertainment.

When many people hear “Gala” they think of a benefit, silent auction, or a fundraiser of some sort. While this is often this case, the Rutland Young Professionals Gala is unique in that this event is a celebration highlighting the accomplishments of the year and gearing up for our annual meeting. Most importantly, we use this opportunity to thank all the local organizations that support our mission. We also give recognition to those who have stood out over the past year in propelling Rutland to a place that attracts and retains young professionals to the area. 

During our inaugural year the board of directors and past-president Sara Gilbert presented Heritage Family Credit Union with our Workplace of the Year award. HFCU is exemplary in its commitment to working with young professional groups both internally, in the greater Rutland Area and statewide. These efforts have not only created employment opportunities, but also retention and upward mobility for young pros within the credit union.

This year we will honor another local business with the same criteria and appreciation for their commitment to the YP demographic. Stay tuned for the announcement! In addition, the committee has decided to award an individual with the Young Professional of the Year award for 2018. This new accolade aims to bring recognition to a young professional who works in Rutland County and is an active participant in the community. The winner was selected from a list of very strong candidates that were nominated by their peers. It was exciting to see so many nominations come in and read about some of the amazing work these individuals are doing on a professional level as well as within the community. The Young Professional of the Year will be announced during the awards ceremony at the Gala.

What else can you expect to see?  Cocktails, passed hors d’oeuvres, a champagne toast sponsored by Hannoush Jewelers, dinner buffet, and DJ Big Handsome helping us light up the dance floor. Vibe Portrait Art will also be providing a photo booth with professional photos. Above all, we are spending time coming together, continuing to lift each other up and build a stronger Rutland. 

Whether you are young or young at heart, you are all encouraged to buy a ticket to this special event and join us for another great celebration of our community!

Leslie Doenges is a RYP board member as well as the Gala committee chairwoman and events committee co-chairwoman.

RYP Launches Monthly Column in Rutland Herald

By Steve Peters

Hey there. We’re the Rutland Young Professionals and we’re excited to start this brand new column to share with the community who we are and what we do.

Perhaps you’ve heard of us but don’t quite understand the purpose of a young professionals organization. That’s why we wanted to start by taking the time to tell you a little about ourselves. In future columns we plan to share stories from our volunteers and members while updating you a bit more on what we’re accomplishing.

Young professional organizations are not a new concept. Yet, in Vermont and Rutland County, there is a renewed need for their presence. According to the Vermont Future’s Project, Vermont’s population growth is on the decline while a growing percentage of current Vermonters are now over the age of 50. This means fewer people in Vermont are here to start careers, businesses and families. And that’s not good for the growth and future of our state.

Rutland Young Professionals is working to change that trajectory. In fact, our mission states exactly that. We aim to attract and retain young professionals to the greater Rutland area and that’s what we’ve been doing for the past five years. We’re a nonprofit organization with several programs and goals that guide our efforts.

Sometimes people think we’re a group offering volunteer services to the community, yet you may be surprised to hear that we all are quite busy volunteering our time just to keeping RYP up and running!

Everyone involved with the organization donates their time and energy to do everything from keeping membership records and managing our finances to executing the details of our events to writing and designing our marketing strategy. Unlike many other nonprofits, we currently do not have any paid staff members.

Instead, we have 11 board members and a growing team of volunteers who have regular meetings to organize and carry out our mission. As you’ll learn in upcoming columns, these folks come from varied backgrounds and work in a wide range of fields. Although the term “professionals” may sound like it applies to an exclusive group, if you’re being paid for what you do, whether you work on a farm, serve in a restaurant or own your own business, guess what? You’re a professional.

So what does RYP actually do? For starters, you’ve likely heard about our monthly mixer, the Mix. For several years we’ve organized these events at locations throughout the greater community. They’re casual, low-pressure opportunities to socialize with new and old friends, as well as a time to network and learn about potential job opportunities, available housing, volunteer needs and much more. They’re free events that anyone who is looking to communicate with young professionals is welcome to attend, regardless of age, profession, or place in their career or schooling.

While some like to argue that these are just social get-together, a strong social network is actually one of the most significant factors that influences where someone may decide to live. We’re proud to say that our Mixes regularly have more than 40 attendees — sometimes more than 100 — and also serve as a chance for us to help highlight area businesses, organizations and community members.

In the coming months, we’ll tell you a bit more about the many other initiatives RYP organizes, including Let’s Dish, a program for young pros considering moving to the area, our continuing education grant opportunity, our statewide summit, our meetups and more.

To get in touch with RYP, visit rutlandyoungprofessionals.org, find us on Facebook, Instagram or email info@rutlandyoungprofessionals.org.