Not all movements start out with a big bang, they start out small….much like a small pebble tossed in a pond, as the ripples spread outward across a larger area. ELP Cares: Lead for Those in Need is a volunteer movement currently in the initial stages of development, and as founding member Steve Record points out, “With most people having busy lives, and multiple commitments, we can’t expect them to fully jump on board right away. With that, ELP Cares is working to create a vehicle to enable small, manageable contributions that provide folks with a quick connection to helping others. The goal is to illustrate that a small investment of your time or money can have a significant, positive and meaningful impact on you, your community and the organizations this initiative will support.”
ELP is short for Emerging Leaders Program – an executive education program focused on leadership development founded by former UMass Boston Chancellor Sherry Penney. It is housed at UMass Boston’s College of Management in the Center for Collaborative Leadership.
For the past 15 years, the Emerging Leaders Program has been inspiring high potential talent in various organizations throughout the Greater Boston community to be better citizens and leaders. ELP Cares may actually seem like a long time coming, however it is not because the alumni don’t care – they are extremely active in the community. This effort is the first time that members of the alumni board are working to harness that collective power of giving back, and it seems to be working thanks to the leadership and guidance of Steve Record of Mass Eye and Ear and Lori Wells Prew of IdeaLift who serve as co-chairs of the alumni engagement committee.
ELP Cares started in September with collecting food donations at an event. Over the course of 2 events, 150 donations have been collected to support the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB). The committee then recruited 10 ELP volunteers to go to the GBFB to donate their time and their energy to help end hunger in Eastern Massachusetts. The volunteers sorted huge boxes of grapefruit into smaller transportable cases and placed them on pallets for distribution to those in need.
ELP alum Chris West, who was at the GBFB for the first service day, said, “The ELP volunteer day was great! As we approach the holiday season, I was reminded of the importance of giving back. I was also able to connect with folks from my cohort and meet new ELP fellows. Though the GBFB service is serious stuff, we were able to have an enjoyable time while volunteering.”
The ELP alumni board engagement committee has a vision for what is possible with ELP Cares. It starts with providing cans of food, and grows into a community service movement. Over the next year, in addition to supporting the Greater Boston Food Bank, they will also be supporting Christmas in the City and School on Wheels of Massachusetts. Working alongside Prew and Record are Ron Bell, a well-known voting rights advocate and Julie Gehring of Mother Caroline Academy.
Gehring joined the alumni board immediately upon graduation, stating, “I witnessed so much civic passion among my cohort, I was interested in working with the alumni board so it would enable alum across cohort years to collaborate, truly embracing the mission of the center to give back to the Boston community and cultivate the next generation of leaders.” As a founding member of ELP Cares, she is doing just that by introducing the alumni base to the great work of Christmas in the City – yet another opportunity for alumni to engage in a community of volunteers.
The real driving force behind this initiative is Lori Wells Prew, who stated, “Leadership strategies can be academically taught, but the best leadership is demonstrated through empathetic modeling. Empathetic leaders recognize the concerns other people have by seeing things through their eyes—and this is critical in this ever-changing world.” “The ELP Cares: Lead for Those in Need movement is a vital and gratifying component of a true leadership experience, and I am proud to be a part of it.”