In 2019, John Almond was building beds in Columbus, Dickie Bryan was opening a recovery house for drug addicted or homeless men in West Point, and Evie Vidrine was joining the Columbus Young Professionals.
The three were then strangers, each working independently.
Tonight, their paths will likely converge as a local organization rebrands itself to serve the community.
When Columbus Chamber President Wilson Beck, Golden Triangle Development COO LINK Macaulay Whitaker and Vidrine, now President of Columbus Young Professionals (CYP), met this summer to discuss the future of CYP, they quickly agreed on one thing: could do more, maybe a lot more.
Founded by the Chamber in 2014, CYP was originally conceived as a networking group for young professionals in the city.
But by the time Vidrine joined in 2019, the energy of the original group seemed to have dissipated.
âBack then, and certainly during COVID, it seemed like we were missing something in our goals as a group,â Vidrine said. âI thought maybe we should be more of a service-based band. “
It was an idea Beck embraced immediately.
âI said, ‘Listen. We have talent here and I think it would be an advantage for us to re-energize the program, to do a complete overhaul, âsaid Beck.
Originally, CYP was limited to professionals between the ages of 21 and 35. As part of its new branding, CYP will make membership available to anyone over the age of 21.
âWe really couldn’t think of a reason why we should have an arbitrary age restriction,â Vidrine said. “I hope this will open it up and help us grow our organization.”
Tonight, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, CYP will be holding a meeting to discuss how it plans to change its mission. The meeting is free, with food provided by The Peachtree Group, which operates the hotel.
The meeting will be an opportunity to explore ideas for the new group, in particular its new service orientation. Almond, founder of the Golden Triangle Dream Center, will discuss volunteer opportunities for the group in several of its programs.
Founded in 2019, the Almond faith-based organization began by building beds for needy people in the community, especially children. As of this week, its Bedz4Kids program has built and delivered 311 beds throughout the Golden Triangle, relying on volunteers, churches, civic clubs and businesses in the area to fund the project.
Since then, the Dream Center has expanded its programs, in partnership with The Mission. Founded by Bryan, a local pastor, in 2018, The Mission launched its men’s residential program in 2019 on a property formerly owned by Bryan Foods in West Point. The Dream Center has moved its activities into the property, which includes two buildings over 32,000 square feet. Since then, the residential program has expanded from its original seven beds in 2019 to 20 beds. There are plans to increase the facility to 52 beds in the near future.
The Dream Center also operates an Adopt-A-Block program used to identify and meet the needs of poor residents.
âWe are a faith-based organization and two years later it feels like we are living in the midst of a miracle,â Almond said. “God has exceeded my expectations at this point, although my expectations are much higher than what we have achieved.”
For Vidrine, this seemed like the perfect fit for CYP as it changed its mission to service.
âIt just felt natural to us,â she said. “They’ve done a ton of work in our community, so we invited John to give us an overview of what they’re doing at our meeting (today).”
Almond said working with CYP solves two problems.
âWe are based on volunteerism,â said Almond. âThere are a lot of things we would like to do, or do more, but we need volunteers. The group of young professionals has volunteers, but they have no plans. I really see a synergy developing here.
Vidrine and Beck both believe the group’s new focus will also increase CYP membership, which currently stands at 87.
âI think CYP’s vision of getting involved in these projects and being community advocates will attract more people to the organization,â Beck said.
“I think this will energize our group”, said Vidrine. âI can’t wait to see where this goes from here. The meeting (today) is just the beginning.
Slim Smith is a columnist and editor for The Dispatch. His e-mail address is [emailÂ protected]