Becca Whitaker, 27, says that as she grew up in Chattanooga her parents never spoke of networking. That might be because for the baby boomer generation, a network was the television station being broadcast into their homes. “My parents did the typical PTA attendance, but their community involvement wasn’t on the level we are doing it now — it’s hard to even compare,” Ms. Whitaker said. She added most of her peers will not be interested in civic clubs. “We’re more inclusive,” she explained. Ms. Whitaker is one of the growing number of 20- to 40-year-olds finding social, educational, political and volunteer opportunities through young professionals organizations, more commonly known as YPOs. Ms. Whitaker is a member of Young Professionals Association of Chattanooga. YPAC meets monthly at the United Way building for lunch and a presentation on topics ranging from government to education, philanthropy to cultural arts. There are 85 dues-paying members, and 450 people on the group’s e-mail list. “YPAC is a nonprofit dedicated to providing energetic, motivated young professionals a source for networking to promote career success, develop friendships, grow personally and shape our community,” said YPAC member Tiffanie Campbell. Ms.Campbell, 23, agrees her peers are more proactive in the way they network than her parents’ generation. “We feel the need to be in contact with YPs who share our same common goals and interests, but want to develop a true friendship vs. the ‘strictly business’ relationship,” Ms. Campbell said when comparing YPOs with the civic clubs of her parents’ generation. Young adult groups aren’t new, they’ve been around for years, but their memberships were usually occupation-driven, such as young lawyers or young CPA organizations.
What’s new is the number of YPOs springing up across the country drawing their members from a cross-section of occupations, who espouse the “Live First, Work Second” theory explored by Rebecca Ryan in her book of the same title.
“My peers have the ‘Live First, Work Second’ mindset, meaning we are hard workers, but what we do with our free time, current job location, community relationships is more important than staying with the same company for 20 years such as my parents have done,” Ms. Campbell explained.
Ryan states in her book that YPs “pick a city before they pick a job.” In addition to being more transient in their jobs, YPs think on a global scale. They communicate instantly through text messages and e-mail.
As Rebecca Ryan points out, YPs have absorbed the fact that talent is not restricted to a certain gender, nationality, religious belief or any other demographic label because they have grown up in classrooms with religious and ethnic diversity.
“We are just looking for forward-thinking, innovative individuals,” Ms. Whitaker said of YPAC membership.
Two new YPOs in Chattanooga are affiliated with nonprofits.
Friends of the Ronald McDonald House began in 2005 as a fund-raiser and ‘friend’- raiser for that nonprofit.
“We were looking for a way to train the next generation of board members as well as provide additional workforce for our events,” said Jane Kaylor, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chattanooga.
According to Nicole Bellenfant, RMH annual giving director, the Friends meet quarterly. Their activities range from Cinco de Mayo parties to decorating the house for Christmas to bowling tournaments.
Ms. Kaylor said the nonprofit has seen an increase in 20- and 30-year-olds attending their events since Friends formed.
Last December, Creative Discovery Museum formed the Young Professionals Tower Club (their name reflects the children’s museum’s iconic tower). They began with a membership of 60, according to Sharman Sherfey, director of development and public relations for the museum.
“Their first project was to work with Amuse’Um. They began the Tower Club silent auction,” said Ms. Sherfey. “Their goal was to raise $5,000 and they raised $5,700, and the new auction was a big hit at the event.”
Museum director Henry Schulson said the Tower Club members brought new ideas and new people to this year’s fundraiser.
“Some of these members are parents of young children, which is our target audience, and others will be parents one day,” he said. “From that standpoint, the Tower Club is a good fit for us.”
Mr. Schulson said the Tower Club and other YPOs are good for the community because they “bring in a new generation of people excited about being in Chattanooga and oriented to helping their community.”
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Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...