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Learn about a local organization that’s helping to keep top professional talent in the Tri-State through networking, group events, and professional growth opportunities.

The group that makes up NEXT Young Professionals.
The group that makes up NEXT Young Professionals.

Millennials are the employees of the future and giving them a space to develop their professional skills is important. To help the Tri-State’s young professionals develop those skills find development opportunities, the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance launched the organization NEXT Young Professionals.

“We focus on providing professional and personal development opportunities in West Chester and Liberty Townships for young professionals aged 21-40 that live and/or work along the I-75 Growth Corridor,” explains Staff Liaison Pam Gruber.

Following a relaunch in April 2014, NEXT Young Professionals found itself with the help of Gruber and fellow liaison Kelly Bittlinger.

Gruber and Bittlinger say the inspiration behind NEXT Young Professionals was born when The Chamber Alliance recognized the need to create a welcoming atmosphere for young professionals to get comfortable with networking and see the importance of getting connected in the community.

“No matter what industry they work in or role they play within their organization, the more connected young professionals feel within the community, the more likely they will want to stay in this area,” says Bittlinger.

The group at NEXT Young Professionals is comprised of a devoted steering committee and loyal attendees to the monthly Night of Networking events as well as quarterly Lunch & Learns. There are also several businesses in the area that support and host the Night of Networking events for the organization, some that provide food and drinks.

Not only is NEXT Young Professionals helping young professionals in West Chester and Liberty develop personal and professional skills, but they bring a very unique opportunity that promises a future of growth in a developing part of the Tri-State.

“Our Chamber represents the townships of West Chester and Liberty, strategically located along I-75 and nearly midway between Dayton and Cincinnati,” says Gruber. “As this region continues to develop, our Chamber’s sphere of influence expands. Through its growth, the community continues to offer new opportunities to connect and grow businesses, and the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance continues to educate and inform business professionals about the outstanding economic development opportunities in our region and the I-75 Growth Corridor.”

Aside from the professional developments allotted by NEXT Young Professionals, members of this organization also gain friendships.

“Even beyond the group, lifelong friendships have been formed and have gone beyond business relationships, which is important in keeping key talent in the West Chester and Liberty Townships areas,” says Gruber.

The group is always looking for new ways to collaborate and connect with organizations in the area. To contact them, send an email to info@thechamberalliance.com. NEXT Young Professionals is open to Chamber members and non-members. You can learn more here.

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Learn about a fashionable way to get dressed up for a great cause that helps local young girls in need feel like a princess on prom night.

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If one glass slipper can change everything for Cinderella, imagine what getting outfitted head-to-toe for prom will do for a young girl in need.

That’s the idea behind Cinderella’s Closet, which opened its doors in 2007 and is now serving more young women than ever. The inspiration for this charity came about when Erin Peterson, the founder and director, met a young woman who couldn’t afford a dress of her own.

“I overheard her ask a clerk if the beautiful, gently-used gown on display could be put on hold while she figured out how to pay for it,” Peterson says. “She asked her foster mother for the money, but a prom dress is an extra in life, and its price was out of their reach. Seeing her disappointment, I bought the dress for her. As tears flooded her eyes, she thanked me and said she would look ‘just like Cinderella.'”

Cinderella’s Closet soon became a ministry of Immanuel United Methodist Church. Since 2007, the charity has helped nearly 4,000 young women find the dresses for their dream prom night.Glass Slipper Gala

Junior and senior girls are referred to Cinderella’s Closet by their school, community organization or social care agency in Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana. The Liberty Township location serves girls from all over Southwest Ohio.

The Glass Slipper Gala is an annual event that fundraises for the organization so they can continue to grow and service the local girls in need. “The Glass Slipper Gala is a one-time special event to celebrate a decade of ‘Turning Dresses Into Dreams,” Peterson says. “It will be an elegant evening with dinner, dancing, games and a silent auction. At the Gala, you will also have the opportunity to hear from one of our previous princesses, Miss Jacquia Campbell. She attended Cinderella’s Closet in 2008 and 2009. Since that time, Miss Campbell has never missed an opportunity to volunteer with us.”

The sponsorship of the Gala honors Ann Blackham, who was a pioneer of women’s rights in the 1960s. She was not only one of the first women to solely own a business in the 1960s, but also served on the President’s Task Force on Women’s Rights and Responsibilities. The gift of sponsorship is made by her son, Mr. Bill Blackham, and his wife Dr. Dora Savani. All proceeds raised from the Glass Slipper Gala on Feb. 26 will benefit the Lydia Sheerer Memorial Scholarship Program, which is a scholarship program occurring since 2014, designed to present three $1,000 scholarships to girls who serve their communities, participate in school activities, work hard in school and receive the recommendation of their school counselors.

This scholarship is made in dedication to Sheerer, Peterson’s great-grandmother, who earned money from washing others’ laundry, and later earned money as a cafeteria attendant at the local school. “[She] sent two of her girls to college, each graduating with a degree as a Registered Nurse, one of the highest degrees a woman could earn at the time,” Peterson says. ”She knew the value of achieving your fullest potential no matter how difficult your circumstances.

At Cinderella’s Closet, we want our princesses’ prom night not to be the greatest day of their life, but instead be the first day of the rest of their lives.”

Every year, nearly 250 ladies volunteer to make sure that our princesses feel cherished. Volunteers are classified as ‘Fairy Godmothers’ who hold the young ladies’ coats, zip up their gowns and lastly, bend down and place the glass slipper on her foot.

“This interaction, we believe, is the most important, Peterson says. “It is our hope that we are not only sending our princesses off with a dress, but more importantly with confidence in themselves. We want the girls that visit us, to ‘walk in a way that comes only from being cherished.'”

For those looking to get involved, the volunteer positions for this year’s Northern Kentucky event filled in less than 10 hours, but there are still volunteer opportunities available at their Liberty Township location.

Dress donations are accepted year round at several locations throughout the area, their website details how and where to drop off. Cinderella’s Closet is located at the Immanuel United Methodist Church on 2551 Dixie Highway in Lakeside Park, KY. For more information or volunteer opportunities, visit their website.

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We chat with the owner of The Tea Parlor, an English-style tea room in Liberty Township. Read on to sip in all the details.

The Tea Parlor
Susan Schechter and her daughter Jennie Lawson, Owners of The Tea Parlor.

Cincy Chic: What is The Tea Parlor?
Susan Schechter, Co-Owner of The Tea Parlor: The Tea Parlor is an English-style tea room open on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday each week.

Cincy Chic: What’s the inspiration behind it?
Schechter: Our family developed a love for tea about 15 years ago and decided to share that with our community.

Cincy Chic: Who’s behind the business?
Schechter: My daughter, Jennie Lawson, and I are the main people involved in the business, although it is an entire family affair.

Cincy Chic: When did you open The Tea Parlor?
Schechter: We opened in October 2004, so we’ve just started our 11th year.

Cincy Chic: What makes The Tea Parlor unique?
Schechter: The tea rooms themselves are kind of a rare breed in this area, but our distinction includes the fact that we use a majority of organic ingredients and prepare everything from scratch. We have over 50 teas available for our customers to drink as they enjoy our menu of sandwiches, desserts and scones that changes each month to take advantage of the best local foods.

Cincy Chic: Is there anything new on the horizon for The Tea Parlor?
Schechter: We have a new website for tea sales, but otherwise we plan to continue our history of good food and friendly service.

Cincy Chic: Where can readers go to learn more?
Schechter: Check out our website at www.theteaparlor.net and our tea sales site at www.teaparlorshop.com. For more questions, readers can call me at 513-777-3949.

The Tea Parlor is located at 5605 Yankee Road in Liberty Township.

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