South Windsor Jaycees to hold Meet and Greet

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Wed., Jul. 10, 2013
Jaycees members man the auction table at Paws in the Park, which raised more than $1,700. Pictured (l-r): Andrew LaTour, Stacy Gombar, auction chairperson Michelle O'Connell, and Emily Swiatek. Photo courtesy of Paul Petrillo. - Contributed Photo

The Jaycees is an international organization for young adults, ages 21 to 40. The organization has chapters in 50 countries world-wide. In South Windsor, the local chapter has between 35 and 40 members – and is looking for more. Those interested in becoming a part of the South Windsor Jaycees will have an opportunity to learn more at a Meet and Greet on Monday, Aug. 5, from 6:30 to 7 p.m., at the South Windsor Community Center, located at 150 Nevers Road.

“We're always trying to grow numbers,” said Paul Petrillo, president of the South Windsor Jaycees. “You can never have too many volunteers.”

Originally, the primary purpose of the Jaycees was to help develop young leaders in the community, Petrillo said. “Jaycees” stood for Junior Chamber of Commerce. The understanding was that once a member reached the age 40 limit, they would move on to the local Chamber. In South Windsor, the local Jaycee chapter began in 1992. Chapters tend to develop their own sense of character and brand, and in South Windsor, the focus is on community service.

For Petrillo, the South Windsor Jaycees is more than just a feeder group for the Chamber. The organization's focus on service makes it distinct from a Chamber, which is more business- and networking-oriented. Nevertheless, the skills that Jacyees members learn make them highly valuable to the business world.

“The events that the organization runs have grown substantially larger,” said Petrillo. As such, the management skills required of volunteers have grown exponentially, as well. “People learn their leadership and project management skills there, and they can take those skills back to the workplace itself without having to move into a Chamber,” Petrillo said.

The spirit of the organization continues to focus on young adults, but Petrillo said that in these changing times, members are not thrown out into the cold once they age out.

“As times have evolved and people have changed in when they start a career and settle down, many local chapters, including South Windsor, no longer say, 'Oh, you've reached age 40, you need to move on,'” said Petrillo. Instead, the chapter offers associate membership, in which those over the age limit can continue to stay involved with the group.

While the national bylaws require the distinction between members and associate members, in South Windsor, associate members can participate in virtually the same capacity as regular members. “In no part do we tell people they can't participate because they're over age 40,” he said. This accommodation helps the group, as well. “With the size of the projects that we manage, the organization needs as many volunteers who want to volunteer as possible.”

The South Windsor Jaycees run roughly 20 community projects a year. In May, the group presented the annual Paws in the Park event, raising $5,000. The South Windsor Bark Park received $3,500 and the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation received $1,500. Prior to that, the group took on the food booth at the Armed Forces Day event, raising $1,800 which was split between the fourth-grade bicycle safety program and the Komen Foundation.  

Other projects include selling Travelers Championship tickets, which will benefit the South Windsor Police Department's child car seat safety program, food drives, “Breakfast with Santa,” “Breakfast with the Bunny,” participation in the Memorial Day parade, collecting baskets for the needy for Thanksgiving and participation in the town's Adopt-a-Family program.

“All the projects are geared towards fundraising, serving town organizations or the people who are disadvantaged and less fortunate,” said Petrillo. “So far to date, we've raised $9,000 for charity this year through our events.”

Unlike many charity groups, however, the South Windsor Jaycees do have a social, networking aspect, as well. The group meets for monthly meetings, and also offers social events, such as whale watches, wine-tastings, trips and dinner nights. “It gives people a chance to get to know each other on a one-on-one basis, rather than only for work-related events,” he said. “It builds up teamwork in the long run because everyone gets to know each other on a personal level.”

“The meet and greet is for people to learn a little about the organization for the first 30 minutes, and we'll talk about the coming events that we're planning. If people want to get involved, they are welcome to stay for that, as well.”

The meet and greet will be a very informal event. Anyone coming in between 6:30 and 7 will be able to talk more with a Jaycee board member to learn more about the organization. Petrillo notes that there are no minimal requirements to be a member. “You don't have to show up to x-number of meetings, x-number of projects,” he said.  Once a member, you stay in contact via e-mail or social media, and you can chose to participate as your schedule allows.

“Every year we're expanding the events that we do. And as we do, we try to encourage more people to get involved with the organization also,” Petrillo said.

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