A new volunteer and philanthropic group for local young professionals has formed, with its leadership participating in its first activity Dec. 6.

They will help the Firemen’s Cheer Fund sort toys for local families in need at Christmas, ahead of a formal group kickoff event planned for January.

Emerging Leaders United is meant “to identify, inspire, and develop the next generation of philanthropic leaders through community service, leadership development and networking opportunities,” according to its mission statement.

The idea is to have these leaders — age 40 and younger — engage with and support United Way of Bartholomew County nonprofit agencies via volunteer efforts and financial giving, organizers said.

“It’s going to be a way to identify young philanthropic-minded individuals in the community and unite them with like-minded individuals,” said Hayden Shuffett, 27, overall chair of the group. “United Way is a good organization to join with because of all the different community partners they have and all the different organizations they support.”

Beth Powers, 33, the group’s giving chair, had chaired Cummins Inc.’s United Way campaign last year, and has been a part of the firm’s campaign for five years.

“There are so many young people within our community who do great work within the United Way network,” Powers said. “So we want Emerging Leaders United to be a place where they all can come together and learn from each other — all with the support of United Way.

“Once people can see firsthand the impact of the 22 agencies that United Way supports, I think they’ll be as excited as I am about this opportunity.”

Powers acknowledged the group can act as an extra way to galvanize young people’s giving of money and time. Participants will be encouraged to donate $250 or more annually to United Way, according to the group’s proposals. Plus, a variety of regularly scheduled volunteer activities are planned so people will have specific ways to plug into a local network of needs.

“There are a lot of people out there who just don’t yet know a good way to get involved (in United Way support),” Powers said.

The group will include a lot of formal and informal networking, said Kyle Hendricks, 29, United Way’s marketing and communications coordinator and among those forming the group.

Toward that end, Emerging Leaders United already has members from businesses such as MainSource Bank, Centra Credit Union, and Cummins Inc. Those people will serve as United Way advocates within their businesses.

“I see this in part as another way to connect young people to the community and to help attract and retain that young talent,” said Hendricks, a Columbus native. “It’s part of that conversation going around about finding ways to keep people engaged.”

More information about Emerging Leaders United

For people interested in Joining Emerging Leaders United or seeking more information send an email to emergingleaders@uwbarthco.org.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.