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Grads promoted emergency access, aided restaurants

For the 22 graduates of the Leadership Lehigh Valley Class of 2013, it was two for the price of one.

As a requirement for graduation, each Lehigh Valley Leadership class is responsible for identifying and completing a project that will benefit the Lehigh Valley region by addressing a community need or issue. The project serves as a learning lab and causes each class to work together and develop its leadership and project management skills.

However, this year’s class – which graduated earlier this month – successfully completed two initiatives. One was promoting how to access emergency services in a crisis and the other was providing marketing advice to restaurants and eateries.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the experience,” class member Matt McKernan, president of Mosaic Interactive, said of Leadership Lehigh Valley. “The leadership skills I gained and the ability to network with community-minded individuals will prove to be invaluable for my future.”

Leadership Lehigh Valley is a private, nonsectarian, not-for-profit organization established in 1985 to provide for the community’s increasing need for capable volunteer leaders. Its class members work together to develop leadership, project management and team-building skills.

Moreover, its projects provide a powerful learning experience for participants, who gain valuable and practical insight into the nonprofit sector though the process of working in tandem with the organization’s staff and board members to achieve a specific goal.

As a result of the impact that Hurricane Sandy had on the region, this year’s class members recognized that there was a general lack of knowledge about how to access emergency services in a crisis.

Most of the members of the class had not heard of the 211 service emergency access call center and suspected that most people in the Lehigh Valley also were not aware of the service. They also learned that much of the agency information was out of date.

Members of the LLV class believed it would be a worthwhile project to work in conjunction with the United Way organization to promote 211 in the Lehigh Valley. The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley was enthusiastic about the opportunity to have support to promote the 211 service.

The class also assumed responsibility for getting updated profiles for the 400-plus organizations that are registered with the 211 database of service organizations.

By developing marketing materials, such as a comprehensive brochure, and making strategic connections with the media and various organizations, the group raised awareness about the 211 call center and encouraged service organizations to register and keep their information up to date.

The class provided valuable insight about how other 211 regional call center programs might promote and sustain their services.

The second area of interest centered on concerns about the potential impact to existing small businesses near the site of a major urban development project in Center City Allentown.

The team rallied around the concept of supporting existing small restaurants and eateries in Allentown, especially those closest to the arena project. The goal was to provide guidance to local small businesses in the areas of marketing and planning, in particular.

The class focused on informing existing businesses about effective marketing tools and how to be proactive in planning for the urban project’s potential impact to their business. The class developed a brochure that provides restaurants and eateries with helpful tips on marketing their business and how to create a virtual and online presence with which many consumers have become accustomed.

Through strategic partnerships and consultations with downtown business owners and various community, government and economic development program leaders, the class encouraged dialogue about the importance of helping local businesses adjust and thrive in a changing urban environment.

City agencies agreed that this information would be included in the welcome packets that are distributed to new businesses, which will ensure that the benefits will reach well beyond the immediate economic development zone.

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