Saturday, 23 February 2019 18:51

Richmond Young Professionals continue to work, play, give

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In the three years since its inception, Richmond Young Professionals has hosted events including Pub Trivia Night at Arts Richmond. In the three years since its inception, Richmond Young Professionals has hosted events including Pub Trivia Night at Arts Richmond. Contributed photo

ROCKINGHAM — In the later months of winter back in 2016, after a conversation with Gene McLaurin, David Stogner and a handful of others got together and created Richmond Young Professionals, a group of like-minded younger people who are entering the workforce. Three years later, and RYP has been a fixture in the community.

Membership has always been used as a loose term, said Stogner, who serves as RYP's president, but active members total around 30. Members who have been reached number up to 300 on the Facebook group and close to 100 professionals have participated in different types of events.

"It all kinda went back to the conversation with Gene," Stogner said. "He had a group of young professionals across multiple counties that got together, talking about things that can happen to improve rural communities. We saw some opportunity in that and thought we should do that in Richmond County."

Stogner went on to say that with being a young person himself and having friends the same age, they've all experienced the same thing looking for events for people of that generation. Along with it, he mentioned young teachers who continue to move to Richmond County from out of state, only to watch them leave after a couple of years. RYP aims to provide activities and opportunities and connections to make Richmond County not only a desirable destination but a place to stay.

Richmond Young Professionals has merchandise such as T-shirts and koozies, and they all include the group's motto: Work. Play. Give.

Each word has a different meaning.

"The 'work' part is individuals that are young professionals that are either starting off in their profession and want to grow their contacts and grow their own resume or experience," said Stogner. "Some of them are business owners and leaders, and it's another way to provide connections to other business leaders. We're a branch of the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce so we've got that connection, as well."

Chamber President Emily Tucker said every city in the United States, no matter how big they are, has the desire to attract and retain young adults, and that Richmond County is no different.

"The Chamber felt the way to achieve those goals was to offer opportunities for young adults to engage in their communities, exchange ideas and build relationships," said Tucker. "It was a way to try to connect to young professionals as they are beginning their careers to then be the future leaders of our community. I am thankful we had David Stogner on our Chamber board at the time who volunteered to chair this division of the Chamber. The board and myself are very proud of the work he and his group have accomplished since its inception and look forward to the future of RYP."

The "play" portion of the motto goes back to giving young people more activities to do that are of interest. In the past, that has included playing ultimate frisbee on a weekly basis, kickball and soccer adult leagues, as well as playing flag football and kickball against Scotland County's Young Professional Network.

Another such event that falls within "play" is an upcoming disc golf tournament, currently in the planning stages, set to be held at Hinson Lake's new course.

"One of the biggest pushes we had last year was to really have something that was gonna be lasting, and not only impact RYP but the community on a larger scale," Stogner said. "That's why we thought a disc golf course would be beneficial. It's a fairly inexpensive sport to get into. It's free to play as long as you have your discs, and it's good exercise. We knew anyone from 10 years old all the way up to 65, 70 could participate."

Advocacy with local government was another thing David said RYP wanted to push, so working with the City of Rockingham helped to get the disc golf course off the ground.

The "give" portion of the motto includes volunteering in events such as Habitat for Humanity builds, working with Richmond County Schools to support the "Stuff the Bus" campaign and working at various Chamber events like the Annual Celebration, Hoptoberfest, the Work Ready Day at the Ninth Grade Academy and the Business Expo.

"We try to separate our events with the work, play, give to reach a broader group of young people, and the reason we do that is because we're working with a smaller population than other counties," said Stogner. "We try to split those up depending on when they occur during the year. We try to do two of each per year. We're working with the Chamber to really increase business connections with people in a business looking to push that.

"The play, obviously, that's a reoccurring thing. With some of these events, we get an adult soccer team together, and that will last a couple of months," he continued. "And the give, we like to team up with the Chamber and Richmond County Schools because we do wanna keep some of these teachers that are coming in from out of state and give them a reason to stay."

Any young professionals in Richmond County between the ages of 21 and 40 are invited to join and participate in Richmond Young Professionals as the group continues to grow from the last three years and into the future.