CHAUTAUQUA - On a Thursday evening in late February, two-dozen leaders representing businesses and organizations from throughout Chautauqua County gathered in a classroom in Bellinger Hall on the otherwise quiet grounds of Chautauqua Institution.
Having set aside all other personal and professional commitments for the weekend, the leaders began a two-and-a-half day retreat designed to recognize and further develop each person's leadership skills and build new relationships with other community leaders.
The retreat is the first of several programs scheduled for Chautauqua Leadership Network's Class of 2013 in the coming months. Now in its 21st year, CLN is a not-for-profit organization designed to identify, recruit, train and network area professionals. To date, more than 400 county residents have participated in the program, which was founded to develop effective community leaders and address the challenges and opportunities facing Chautauqua County.
Pictured are members of Chautauqua Leadership Network’s Class of 2013 during their retreat weekend in February. Top row, from left to right, are: Andy Freay, Chautauqua Institution; Jessica Nuccio of Integrated Benefit Solutions; Melissa Balch of M&T Bank; retreat facilitator Larry Robinson of Partners and Robinson; Daniel Reynolds of Jamestown Board of Public Utilities; Scott Crist of Cattaraugus County Bank; Justin Hanft of Bemus Point Elementary School; William Evans III of Phillips Lytle LLP; Wade Terhune of Lake Erie Regional Health System - TLC Health Network; Derrek Ames of Evergreen Outfitters; and Journey Gunderson of the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Center for Comedy. Second row, from left to right, are: Karen Fuller of Buffamante Whipple Buttafaro CPAs; Kelly Biddlecom of Lake Erie Regional Health System - Brooks Memorial Hospital; Jennifer Cresanti of the Gebbie Foundation; Sarah DelMonte of Faculty Student Association of SUNY Fredonia; Shannon Gawronski of Lake Erie Regional Health System - TLC Health Network; Dawn Greyson of Chautauqua County Health Network; Bonnie Carlson of WCA Services Corporation and Terri Kindberg of Chautauqua Children’s Safety Education Village. Seated, from left to right, are: Leanna Luka-Conley of The Resource Center; Megan Sorenson of the Chautauqua Foundation; Terri Helwig of Faculty Student Association of SUNY Fredonia; Amy Rohler of Community Helping Hands; Jackie Patterson of Jamestown Community College; and Hyla Brinkley of Jamestown Board of Public Utilities.
Class members, most of whom have been nominated by their employer to participate in the program, arrive at the retreat with little information about the weekend's activities. Through a series of ice breakers and interviews, group members learn more about each other and begin a discussion of different leadership styles and how and when those styles can be most effective. Led by facilitator Larry Robinson with the assistance of several CLN alumni, the retreat follows a rigorous schedule of self-assessment, conversation, group presentations and experiential activities.
"The CLN weekend retreat was a blast - part intellectual discussion, part brainteaser and part sitting by the fire at the end of the day drinking wine and laughing with new friends," Bill Evans, an attorney with Phillips Lytle who has recently returned to the area, said. "I learned a lot about leadership skills, teamwork and my own personal strengths and weaknesses while also having a lot of fun."
Following its February retreat, the CLN Class of 2013 was welcomed to the organization with a reception on Saturday, March 9, and the group now begins a year-long series of half-day workshops covering such topics as business and economic development, boardsmanship and meeting management and ethics. The curriculum also includes group projects allowing class members to gain a broad knowledge of the assets of the Chautauqua County community.
The CLN Class of 2013 will graduate next fall, and members can remain active in the organization by volunteering for various CLN events and through service on committees or the board of directors. Alumni are invited to participate in class workshops during the year and often share news of employment opportunities and community fundraisers with the larger CLN network of professionals. The organization also hosts a Community Leadership Award ceremony each year to honor an area leader or organization.
"The relationships our members have built with one another go beyond their own professional growth," CLN executive director Pene Hutton said. "They share ideas and opportunities with one another, but also share a real commitment to make Chautauqua County a better place to work and live."
For more information about Chautauqua Leadership Network, visit the organization's new website at www.chautauqualeadership.org. CLN's leadership training and the network that supports these leaders is made possible through the support of its sponsors, Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York, The Resource Center and Nestle Purina.