BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — During the monthly Maumee Chamber of Commerce luncheon on September 12, members had the opportunity to hear more about the work being done at Leadership Toledo.
“Leadership Toledo exists to cultivate a community of leaders who are dedicated to serving with authenticity and purpose,” said Leadership Toledo executive director Anna Toney.
The nonprofit organization, which provides programs for both teens and adults in Northwest Ohio, seeks to show others how to improve their community and contribute to the places they care about.
Toney provided members with information on several different programs offered through Leadership Toledo that teach the importance of being a community leader.
“By inspiring community involvement, we highlight Toledo and the Toledo area: Maumee, Perrysburg, Sylvania, Northwest Ohio, everything, as a special place to call home. As a catalyst, we cultivate leaders of all ages and cultures by connecting them to people, knowledge, experiences and opportunities,” Toney explained to the luncheon guests.
Youth programs offered by Leadership Toledo include Youth Leadership Toledo, or YLT, and Youth in Philanthropy Encouraging Excellence, or YIPEE.
YLT is a program for high school sophomores across Northwest Ohio and gets the young residents out of their comfort zone over the course of 10 months, showing them how to become more confident as leaders and more connected to their community.
Through YIPEE, which focuses on philanthropy, high school juniors and seniors learn more about fundraising and the grant process.
At the end of the program, the students are able to know how to identify the needs of their community and give funding back to local organizations.
“Just this year, the students raised just shy of $19,000 that they granted back to 12 youth-serving organizations. This is very much a student-led program,” Toney said.
The youth programs also show young residents that their voices matter now, Toney said. It’s important to show them they don’t have to wait until they reach adulthood to become a leader.
“The really cool thing about all of our youth programs is that they are completely tuition-free, so we fundraise around that,” Toney added. “We never want costs to be a barrier, so we have a big fundraising breakfast in the fall, and we also coordinate and organize Restaurant Week Toledo.”
Using Restaurant Week Toledo to support tuition-free programming is also a great way to highlight area businesses and continue to bring attention to the area, Toney noted.
In addition to the tuition-free programs for youths, there are several opportunities available to adults, with some of them offering partial scholarships for some participants.
The Signature Program is a 10-month program for adults that brings them in front of other leaders from the region for presentations and hands-on learning.
“If you’re going to be a leader in your community, leaders are learning at all times,” Toney said.
Two new programs also launched in 2023 for adults: Spark and Focus 419.
Spark focuses on philanthropy, exploring the grant process and value-based charitable giving more in-depth. Focus 419 is a 2.5-day program that briefly touches on leadership and the Toledo region.
“Everything we do at Leadership Toledo is very experiential. Whether you’ve lived in Toledo your entire life, or whether you’re brand new here to the region, I promise you that you will learn something,” Toney said.
The mission, after all, is to “lead, connect, grow, serve,” Toney explained. That means youths and adults are asked to consider the needs of their community and how they can help fulfill those, using their own skills and values throughout any program.
Since the organization’s beginnings in 1976, the focus has always been on community and the leaders who reside within.
Together, the more than 1,500 youth alumni and 1,500 adult alumni have served more than 150 nonprofit organizations and granted back more than $375,000 from the youth programs to the community.
“The people who go through Leadership Toledo are committed,” Toney said.
She encouraged chamber members to consider involving themselves with the organization and to learn more about leadership in their community.
“We all want our communities to thrive. We all want to see everyone’s businesses here be successful,” she said.
Another way to do that is through the Community Leadership series, which is presented by First Energy Foundation and is free and open to the public.
“This is a way to get a little taste of what happens at Leadership Toledo and meet with other community leaders,” Toney said.
More information on those presentations and the other programs offered through Leadership Toledo, along with a link to donate, is available on leadershiptoledo.org.
During the luncheon, the chamber also welcomed several new members, including Alice Vandecaveye from Alice Vandecaveye LLC; Nicole Sbrocchi and Dr. Gary Smith from Maumee Integrative Health; Phoebe Sloan from Parting Clouds Yoga; Matt Wagner, Mary Lesiecki and Jennifer Erd from Tanlines Wellness Sun & Spa; and Dave Gedman from Task Force 20.
More information on the Maumee Chamber of Commerce and how to get involved is available at maumeechamber.com.