Regardless of how much you love our city, I’m sure at one time or another you’ve either heard about or had a discussion with someone about our area’s declining and aging population.
From a statewide perspective, West Virginia is the only state in the nation with a declining population. While that’s all true, it doesn’t necessarily paint an accurate picture of the impact that motivated young people are having on our community.
One such group that I’ve had the honor of being a part of is Generation Wheeling, formerly known as OVConnect. Generation Wheeling is a volunteer board of young people who are committed to providing opportunities for others to feel connected to our community.
NEW NAME, SAME MISSION
Generation Wheeling is one of the newest local affiliates of Generation West Virginia, a statewide organization dedicated to attracting, retaining and advancing young talent in the Mountain State. Generation Wheeling is currently made up of the board members who previously operated OVConnect, a non-profit volunteer board founded by Justin Seibert in 2007. OVConnect’s mission was to allow young professionals to network, give back and develop as individuals — while having fun.
As a volunteer board, we found it increasingly challenging to stay consistent in what we offered our community and were spending a lot of time on the administrative tasks of managing the non-profit. Joining Generation West Virginia has given us the support and structure we needed to ensure longevity. We officially announced this new affiliation in November.
One of the most exciting things we’ve witnessed since becoming Generation West Virginia is the surge of new people showing up at events and wanting to learn more about getting involved.
We recently put out an open call for new board members and quicky heard back from over 10 people with impressive and diverse backgrounds wanting to join us! What’s been even more amazing than the response rate is learning the reasons for wanting to get involved.
In fact, more people than I expected did not originally grow up here and have chosen Wheeling as their home. To hear non-Wheeling natives talk about what drew them to the area really makes you think about your hometown in a whole new light and appreciate certain things that you might overlook.
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So, what’s next for us? Only time will tell.
We’re in the process of bringing on a new group of board members who will help us create a strategic plan for 2020. However, we will structure our events around the three pillars of Generation West Virginia — live, work and give.
These are the three factors that are crucial for keeping young people in the area. We want to explore the Mountain State in new ways, have well-paying fulfilling careers and create positive change in our community.
We hope for Generation Wheeling to be the hub for young leaders to reimagine and redefine what it means to be a West Virginian.
We’ve already received such a great reception since we announced this transition — and this is just the beginning!
To start off the new year and this new endeavor on the right note, we’re roaring into the ‘20s with a New Year’s Eve bash!
From 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 31, everyone is invited to dress their best and join us at The Capitol Ballroom for a night of dancing, drinks and fun!
The $50 ticket includes appetizers, drinks, a photobooth and live entertainment from Hit Play. Designated drivers and non-drinkers can join the fun for $35. We hope to see even more new faces and look forward to a bright year ahead!
• Alex Panas is the Program Manager for Wheeling Heritage, where she works with artists, small business owners, and community stakeholders to provide technical assistance and create meaningful programs that enhance Wheeling. She also serves as the managing editor for Weelunk. Alex lives in St. Clairsville with her husband where they raise four cats and four spunky backyard chickens.