Young adults can sometimes get a bad rap—the word “millennial” can carry a negative connotation as someone who is apathetic.
But, that’s a misnomer. There are many young professionals all across Atlanta with a passion for serving their communities. They just may not have always known how to.
At United Way of Greater Atlanta, adults from age 22-30 can have access to a network of young people like themselves with a shared passion for driving change in the community. By donating $250 or more to United Way annually, these people have access to the Lead.Impact.Network.Change (LINC) affinity group.
“The biggest benefit and why [LINC] came about is that we wanted to give people the opportunity to see our brand, not only in our market, but in places where [members] may travel,” said Lauren Rock, director of Young Professional Engagement. “The real goal of LINC was introducing people to the community needs a lot sooner. It was a new way to give people a fun thing to do. There are a lot of events across our market, and you can go somewhere, serve and see a quick return. “It’s a way of introducing United Way’s role in the community.”
LINC’s primary focus is on addressing basic needs and homelessness in Greater Atlanta’s 13 counties. This was something Rose Reardon hadn’t seen as much of in Syracuse, New York, where she lived prior to moving to Atlanta.
Reardon, who serves as co-chair on the LINC Council, had always enjoyed volunteering and helping others. So, it was something she wanted to get involved in once she moved to the South. On one of those first service projects, she said she was brought into the city “further than she had ever gone” from her home. It gave her a chance to see the greater needs of the area.
“My eyes were opened when I moved here,” Reardon said. “It’s very easy to live in a bubble, especially if you don’t live in the downtown or Midtown area. [The first project] was great. We did outdoor beautification and we did some landscaping.
“It was just like, ‘Wow. There are these things I can do. I enjoy doing them, and I’m helping my community and people in need.’”
Like Reardon, Mitch Hogan was also passionate about volunteering. He graduated from the University of Georgia and moved to Atlanta. He had been involved with United Way while in Athens, and when he moved to the area he wanted to get involved with a local United Way.
“I just started looking up what there was, and I found the affinity group online,” Hogan said. “I started talking about United Way and learned what I would be doing, and it seemed like a great opportunity to meet a lot of people and get involved with volunteer events, and once I heard about all of that, I was sold.”
LINC is oftentimes a young professional in Atlanta’s first introduction to philanthropy, so United Way provides a connection to its mission and helping members understand some of the many benefits of joining LINC.
This is an entry-level step to philanthropy. Council members sit on a board and help direct future plans for the group.
Hogan said he liked how the experience was customizable depending on how involved you can become. He said there are enough events to keep you engaged, but everyone is busy, so you have flexibility in the group.
“The reason why I got involved before in college is because I wanted to be around like-minded people that supported each other, and I’m a firm believer that you’ve got to surround yourself with people that you want to be like,” Hogan said. “I want to be someone that is finding out about the issues, tackling those and figuring out new ways to tackle those and raise awareness.”
Reardon echoed Hogan’s sentiment. She agreed that LINC is the perfect place for young people looking to get involved.
“It’s a great way to meet people your age,” Reardon said. “It’s an opportunity to get to know people with the same vision as you. These are people who care about the community.”
To learn more about LINC, click here.