Why I Joined Emerging Leaders United

A blog by ELU Cabinet member Bradley Schaefer of Penske Transportation Solutions.

I was recently asked why I decided to join Berks County’s Emerging Leaders United (ELU), why I have stayed engaged over the last seven years, and what value I have found being a part of ELU. To answer these questions, a bit of history is required. Prior to starting my professional career, my awareness of the United Way was, fortunately, essentially nonexistent. I say “fortunately” because it means that I was never in a position in my life where I was in need of any of the programs or services offered by their Agency Partners. When I first heard about the United Way’s work in our community from a Loaned Campaign Specialist that spoke at my first post-college place of employment, my eyes were opened to the critical role United Way Berks plays in the Greater Reading area. I was immediately moved to contribute financially what I could to the campaign, and ever since then I’ve been looking for ways to increase my contribution and involvement in the program. Fast forward to 2015 when I started hearing about a new division of the United Way called Emerging Leaders United. The information about ELU that was being distributed noted opportunities to be more involved with the United Way through volunteer opportunities and increased community impact. Though this was certainly appealing, truthfully, some of the reasons I was interested were selfish because the distributed information also noted opportunities for professional development and networking with like-minded individuals. Looking at a chance to make a bigger difference in my community while also working on improving myself, there was no hesitation to sign up.

So, what value have I found being a part of ELU since then? In a word, loads! I’ve been able to participate in special volunteer projects. I’ve gained an increased awareness and better understanding of the struggles of the Greater Reading area along with the programs already in place to help address some of those struggles. I’ve met plenty of other people in the area who are also interested in contributing to solving these challenges. I’ve attended “Leading the Way” sessions where I’ve been personally introduced to local leaders (C-suite executives, entrepreneurs, self-made millionaires, etc.) who, like me, care deeply about the health and prosperity of our community. Those leaders have shared their success tips and interesting stories (like how they’ve rubbed shoulders with Jeff Bezos before anyone knew who he was). I’ve been through workshops to advance my soft skills. These experiences are just a sample of what ELU has to offer. Clearly, there is tremendous value to be found in being an ELU member.

In 2020, I was honored to be offered a position on the ELU cabinet. As a cabinet member, I’ve been able to make an even bigger impact on my local community by helping to steer the direction of this incredibly talented and resourceful group. I am looking forward to helping to carry out the vision this group has for our community. Personally, I believe that many of the complications we find in our community could be solved or mitigated through increased education, not just in a traditional sense through schooling, but in other areas of life too. That is why I was thrilled to see that the latest set of ELU events (recently announced here) focuses on education. These events bring to light some of the Agency Partners dedicated to this worthy cause.

I recognize that not everyone is set up as well as I was to succeed, and I want to pay it forward. Many of my fellow ELU members feel the same way. If that rings true for you, will you join us? Join ELU by completing our Membership Form.