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Andrea’s Journey of Leadership and Community Engagement

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Published in Loving Arms Care Journal Issue-2: 2024

Meet Andrea, a driving force at the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce. In this exclusive interview, she shares insights from directing Leadership Charlottesville, strategies for fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the personal passions that fuel her role as a mentor and community leader. Join us as we delve into Andrea’s inspiring journey of service and resilience.

Question 1: Can you briefly share your professional journey and what motivates your community involvement, especially within the Chamber?

Answer 1: I’ve always had a heart for learning and helping others. I am blessed in that every professional job I’ve held has afforded me the opportunity to do both. My professional journey started in banking in the early 90s. As I was completing my degree, I joined Project Discovery, a program of the Monticello Area Community Action Agency (MACAA). After that ended, I joined MACAA’s Head Start program as a family service worker for a few years. I then worked for the public school system for almost six years after which I worked for a private college for six years before joining the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce in 2012. Our Chamber has a long history of encouraging community involvement through past and present programs including Leadership Charlottesville, Leaders Lab, and the Nonprofit Business Council, and by participating in local initiatives like United Way Day of Caring and CNE’s Philanthropy Day. We have members of the Chamber who have supported us for decades. Their explanation is simple: “We are a business in the community. We support the organization that supports the business community.” I am a member of the Charlottesville community. This is my motivation to be civically engaged. Modeling to my nephews and mentees the importance of using our gifts, time, and talent to serve the community also motivates my community involvement.

Question 2: What standout lesson have you learned from directing Leadership Charlottesville?

Answer 2: I had the pleasure of directing the Chamber’s signature program, Leadership Charlottesville, for eight and half years. It was a tremendously rewarding professional and personal experience. Having graduated nine cohorts – over 350 participants – you can imagine the plethora of opportunities I had getting to know each class and participant. While I was responsible for leading Leadership Charlottesville, I, too, was a student in each cohort. That said, I learned from many of the sessions and lessons I put together. A standout lesson I learned from my experience directing Leadership Charlottesville is the importance of being patient with others’ growth and development. Having a healthy level of patience promotes a safe environment for individuals to: build trust, learn continuously, challenge themselves, embrace change, and support others.

Question 3: How do you foster diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Chamber, and what innovative strategies have you found effective?

Answer 3: I’m intentional about fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Chamber. I look at everything we do through an equity lens. Contrary to how the tide might be shifting in today’s work culture, DEI is necessary as they are critical components of any successful organization. I choose to keep it an essential part of the work that I do at the Chamber by: asking the hard questions; being intentional about appointing and recruiting diverse, inclusive leadership and building a diverse, inclusive membership; positively challenging my peers and colleagues on the subject matter; and, keeping us accountable to the work even as others are, unfortunately, eliminating it from their business or organization’s mission.

Question 4: How do your television production and public speaking skills contribute to your role as a mentor and community leader?

Answer 4: Television production and public speaking require clear, concise communication. These are skills I leverage to articulately cast vision, provide guidance and support, and inspire others to action.

Question 5: Apart from your professional commitments, what personal interests or hobbies do you find most fulfilling?

Answer 5: I have been civically engaged in my community since the early 2000s when I moved back to Charlottesville after briefly living in New Jersey. I was away just long enough to develop an appreciation for the abundance of service opportunities this community offers. I have been the emcee for the City of Charlottesville’s Grand Illumination for more than 10 years now. It is one of my most fulfilling and rewarding experiences as it represents some of what’s important to me – family, friends, community, and celebrating the most wonderful time of the year! Like so many others, I took up new hobbies during the pandemic. One of those hobbies is flower gardening. Digging in the soil, planting seeds, nurturing the ground and the flowers, watching new life spring forth… the whole process is a teacher and reminder of the beauty, challenges, and brevity of life.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Andrea for generously sharing her invaluable wisdom and experiences. Her dedication to fostering positive change within the community serves as an inspiration to us all. Thank you, Andrea, for your unwavering commitment to leadership, diversity, and community engagement.

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