WEIRTON - A six-month journey came to an end Wednesday, but now a new adventure begins for the 2014 graduates of the Leadership Weirton program.
Leadership Weirton is organized each year by the Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce, from January to June, and encourages participants to learn about and get involved in their community.
Chamber President Brenda Mull welcomed the class and their guests to the dinner at Williams Country Club Wednesday, and offered her congratulations.
NEW LEADERS — Graduates of the 2014 class of Leadership Weirton included, front from left, Charles Nucci, MaryLou Pietranton, Logan Field, and Michael Lytle, and in back, Angela Shughart, Melissa Kell, Janine Jerrel, Aaron Hasak, Sandra Parkins, Maggie McGinnis, and Chris McBee. The annual Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce program concluded its six-month run Wednesday with a dinner at Williams Country Club. --- Craig Howell
"You made it," she said. "You've been a hands-on class. You've done well."
Graduates of this year's class, and their sponsors, include Logan Field, Dynamic Development Inc.; Aaron Hasak, Dynamic Development Inc.; Janine Jerrel, Doane Family Enterprise doing business as McDonalds; Melissa Kell, Hancock County Savings Bank; Michael Lytle, All State Insurance; Chris McBee, Weirton Heights Rotary; Maggie McGinnis, The Weirton Daily Times/Herald-Star; Charles Nucci, Hancock County Sheltered Workshop; Sandra Parkins, Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau; MaryLou Pietranton, Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort; and Angela Shughart, Weirton Medical Center.
Mull noted a few of the difficulties faced by the class, but said the graduates remained dedicated to the program, learning about local businesses, programs and services, forming friendships and beginning their efforts to give back to the community through a class service project.
"We always like to see you take on a project that will benefit Weirton," Mull said.
The class chose to contribute toward beautification efforts at Starvaggi Memorial Park, raising money and other donations to purchase new benches and flowers, as well as clearing leaves and debris from one of the shelters. On Wednesday, the class continued those efforts by donating the remaining $220 from their efforts to the Starvaggi Memorial Park Civic Association, presenting the check to Doug and Mary Hannah Finton.
Jerrel, speaking on behalf of the class, reflected on their experiences.
"It was nothing we expected, but it was so much more than we thought it would be," she said, noting the class plans to continue meeting each month to learn about each person's business and continue building their friendships. "We just don't want it to end."
Jerrel said the class learned about businesses and organizations they never knew existed, and were able to "click" from the first day they met.
"We always had a great time," she said. "We always laughed, and people knew we were there."
As guest speaker, Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, encouraged the class to search for and create opportunities to help build the future.
He described some of the efforts of the BDC in the last five years, bringing in investments to preserve and create area jobs, explaining people have to look at the big picture, not necessarily the small details.
"You're not selling a day-to-day task," Ford said. "You're selling a vision."
Mull encouraged the class to reflect on the changes within themselves as a result of participating in Leadership Weirton, to share their experiences with others and to continue looking for ways to get involved.
(Howell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)