By DeRondal Bevly, Community Outreach Executive

Here at Culloton Strategies, our personal and extracurricular activities often overlap with our professional lives.  Almost daily, I have conversations with my colleagues about our passions and interests and how connections made through those passions have enriched our professional development. 

I personally have always been interested in the mechanics of how our local communities work.  Thinking back upon my years at Western Michigan University as an economics major, I often found myself far more concerned with what occurred on a micro level and how the ramifications could affect the world on a macro level.  Since graduating, I have had the great fortune of serving on many non-profit boards and community groups throughout Chicago.  Some groups were of personal interest to me, while I got involved in others simply to get involved.  As long as I can remember, a personal motto of mine has been, “You can’t play while sitting on the sidelines.”

Professionally, my tasks include serving as an advance person for the client.  I insert myself into a community and learn what I can to not only help the client obtain a sense of community activities but to also learn the dynamics of the various groups and how they interact with each other.

Part of my fascination with community groups and civic involvement is how the groups bring people from all walks of life together for a cause.  This past weekend, I had to great pleasure to attend the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation “Bear Tie Ball”.  Bear Necessities is a local pediatric cancer foundation started by my good friend and mentor, Kathleen Casey, in 1992.  The annual gala is a yearly celebration of foundation’s work and serves as a thank you to the many supporters and volunteers.

For the first time though, I thought about the people that attend the yearly event.  You have a collection of white, black, rich and not so rich.  Those affected by cancer and those simply there to have a good time.  Walking away from this event, I thought about how the event would affect all of us going forward.  For those involved in the foundation for years, the event simply deepens our commitment to the organization and their mission to eradicate pediatric cancer.  Those not involved walked away with something important as well.  The event served as a reminder for all that there are many ways for each of us to get involved and do what we can to make a difference.

Whatever your passion, getting involved can not only enrich your life but can also provide valuable insight to what is occurring in the community.  In community relations and communications, it is imperative that we know what is occurring around us on a hyper-local level.  We then build upon that knowledge to get a better understanding of how the puzzle pieces come together and create something bigger. 

So, attend that school board meeting or charity function or volunteer at that pediatric cancer foundation.  Whatever it may be, the ripple affect from that involvement can have a profound affect on you, your community and possibly your career.