Young Professionals eye future

By ANNE KAZMIERCZAK
Register Reporter

Register/Anne Kazmierczak
Charter members of the Allen County Young Professionals include, from left, Steven Leonard, Heather Curry, Jana Taylor, Crystal Mattox, Josh Oberley, Katy Donovan and David Toland. The group, in its fledgling state, hopes to increase networking, social and service opportunities for Iola professionals aged 21 through 40.

A nascent group in Iola wants to promote and beautify the community and expand social options for each other.
The Allen County Young Professionals formed as an offshoot of Jana Taylor’s taking over the helm at the Iola Area Chamber of Commerce, she said.
“I spent time getting to know businesses and their employees when I first started here in May of 2008” Taylor said.
Repeatedly, Taylor heard laments from young business people that there were no social or activist opportunities for them in Iola.
“I had no idea there were that many people” feeling so disenfranchised, she said.
She pulled together a focus group, and had them reach out to other young people they knew. “Since the circles we move in here are rather small, there were a lot of overlapping names,” she said.
Taylor surveyed 32 people identified through that process. Questions included age, marital status, industry and interests.
“Most of them are married,” Taylor said. Of the 32, 28 are between the ages of 26 and 40. Two-thirds are female. “Most spend their free time at home with their families,” Taylor said.
For fun, they eat out with friends. They favor restaurants over bars. Their primary industries are health care and banking.
Over half have at least a bachelor’s degree and have lived in the area longer than six years. Most live here because of family. They intend to stay.
But they do want Iola to evolve.
Katy Donovan, one of the charter group, said “We are trying to protect Iola for the future.”
The young professionals appreciate Iola as it is, but know if they are to see their children stay here once they reach adulthood, there needs to be more — and modern — opportunities to keep them. Many in the group feel the current governing body is out of touch with the needs of a younger generation.
Because Taylor wants the organization to give back to Iola, she inquired as to volunteer service being done. The majority already spends one to five hours a month volunteering, but has time to add a couple more hours a month in service work.
“We would love to have more folks come help us out and be involved,” Taylor said. “If anyone has other ideas for service projects, we’d love for them to share those.”
As knowledge of the group grows, Taylor said, “We’ll become formalized, with membership dues and social networking.”
The group intends to be both a social and service organization. It has had two social events and completed one under-the-radar project, sprucing up the area around the “Welcome to Iola” sign at the city’s east edge.
Next on tap is repainting the retaining wall at Allen County Hospital. That venture drew support from county commissioners and the hospital, who each donated $300 towards the $800 total cost of paint.
Also planned is putting “fence protector” on the chain link perimeters of ballfields 1, 2 and 4 at Riverside Park, said Josh Oberley. In the idea stage are a couple summer barbecues.
“We’re trying to have something for everyone,” said David Toland.
If you’d like to join them, contact the Chamber at 365-5252.