In business, one of the most important keys to success is staying connected - networking. Across the Mahoning Valley, young professionals try to stay connected with their peers and the community that helps support them.
In 2003, the Mahoning Valley Professional 20/30 Club was established to help the younger generation of Mahoning Valley professionals connect to one another and to provide them networks of charitable and social opportunities in which to give back.
The MVP 20/30 Club is a member-driven organization that has attracted a wide variety of professionals, who represent a number of private businesses, nonprofit organizations and public institutions throughout the area.
In 2008, 20/30 Club was involved with numerous charities including Make-A-Wish, Boys and Girls Club of Youngstown and Inspiring Minds. They were also able to help raise more than $2,000 at the Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk.
"We deal with a number of organizations," said Heather McMahon, president of the MVP 20/30 Club. "Including the Boys and Girls Club, Leadership Mahoning Valley, the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, the United Way, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, Leadership Mahoning Valley, the Hope Foundation, Mill Creek Metroparks, and others."
Other than being a big part of the community, members of the 20/30 Club get a chance to get to know other professionals in both professional and casual settings.
"We offer a network of dedicated young leaders who are actively seeking to improve the quality of life within the Mahoning Valley," said McMahon.
By joining the club, members have found that many of the relationships and connections they make are lasting.
"For our members, we provide a valuable network of connected and involved young professionals. Many friendships and business partnerships have resulted from this organization," said McMahon. "For the community, we keep our young people connected and increase their quality of life, helping to reduce brain drain and keep them in the Valley."
With all of their community service and charitable contributions, there is one event that stands out.
The organization may be best known for its "40 Under 40 Awards," which honor professionals younger than 40 for their accomplishments and their continued excellence as well as their involvement in the community. Past winner have included state Sen. Capri Cafaro and treasurer Lisa Antonini, as well as restaurant owners, religious leaders and business owners. The event is not only a chance to honor the accomplishments of those outstanding individuals, it is also a chance to help raise money for those in need.
"We host the annual MVP's 40 Under 40 Awards, which raises approximately $15,000 per year for the Young Philanthropist Fund at the Community Foundation for the Mahoning Valley. That money provides mini-grants to youth-oriented non profit agencies in the Valley," said McMahon.
As the membership and the club continue to grow, so to do their ambitions.
"We are looking to begin a brown-bag lunch series as well as instituting board training sessions for our leaders, so that we can begin to send young leaders into the nonprofit boards of directors throughout the Valley," said McMahon.
For those who are interested in being a part of the 20/30 Club, becoming a member is easy to do.
"Anyone over the age of 21 is eligible for membership in the MVP 20/30 Club, though we do also have student memberships available," said McMahon. "There is no criteria for membership beyond a desire to become, or continue to be an active and involved young professional."
The age requirement is more of a liability issue than anything else, since the club often meets in locations that serve alcohol.
With all the club offers to its members, there is one thing to know according to McMahon, "any prospective member should know that we are a dedicated group of individuals who are trying to improve the quality of life in our Valley. The club offers many opportunities, but as with everything in life, it is what you make of it."
The club holds social networking mixers the third Thursday of each month and invites members and those who are considering becoming a member to attend.