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The June Amplify luncheon, held June 28 at Windows on the River, featured remarks...

Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club caters equally to Northeast Ohio natives and transplants

By Lauren Sable Freiman  |  Photo by Doug Khrenovsky

When PNC Bank launched a company-wide young professionals organization several years back, Sarah Gray volunteered to connect the fledging group with established young professional groups around Cleveland. As she became familiar with the wide range of YP groups and what they had to offer, the Cleveland Professional 20/30
Club stood out.

“I enjoyed the experience and thought it was such a great way to network, be out in the community, and volunteer,” Gray, who works as a vice president of sales and incentive reporting manager for corporate and institutional banking at PNC, says.

When the president elect position became available, she was intrigued by the opportunity to become immersed in the growing organization. She applied and was accepted to become part of its 12-member volunteer board.

“We appeal to the younger professionals out in the community,” Gray says. “Some want to make connections to another organization or nonprofit or they’re new to the city or they don’t work with other young professionals within their organizations. We help bring people together.”

Today the 20/30 Club boasts 910 members and is actively growing. Membership in the inclusive club is open to all young professionals, and Gray says first-timers will find that the club and its members are very open and welcoming.

“The typical 20/30 Club member is a young professional in the 21 to 40 age range,” Gray says. “Our membership demographic is approximately 50 percent transplants and 50 percent native Clevelanders, most of whom reside in Cuyahoga County and neighboring counties.”

Founded 15 years ago by a handful of people that wanted to meet other like-minded young professionals, the club began as a monthly forum for discussing “being young in Cleveland,” Gray says. In 2001 Luke Elsass and other young professionals officially established what is now known as The Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club.

Every 20/30 Club event is centered around one of the group’s four founding pillars – social, education, philanthropy, and networking. On the first Thursday of each month, the club hosts a free Around Town networking event at a different venue. Around the World Wednesdays, held at a different restaurant once each month, and weekly Friday networking breakfasts at Grumpy’s Cafe in Tremont allow members to make personal and professional connections while sharing a meal.

While The 20/30 Club offers a free social membership, the $75 paid membership allows access to the club’s exclusive CEO dinners. The opportunity to dine with a local CEO representing a wide range of companies and industries is limited to just 12 club members each month.

“The CEO Dinner sells out every month and is one of the main draws for our membership,” Gray says. “It is just fantastic to sit down with Art Anton, the CEO of Swagelok, and be able to ask questions and get advice.”

Other previous CEOs include Tony Davidson from Kichler Lighting, Sandy Cutler from Eaton Corp., Chris Connor from Sherwin Williams, Chris Gorman from Key Bank North America and Scott Phillips Jr. from Keller Williams Realty. October’s CEO Dinner will feature Ronn Richard, President and CEO of The Cleveland Foundation, while Bill Griswold, Director of The Cleveland Museum of Art will join the club for its November dinner.

The remainder of 2015 will feature a multi-part professional development series and the 11th Annual Stuff the Stocking raffle. Proceeds will benefit The Jacob Harasyn Feichtner Fund, which helps provide quality education for children who have learning differences. Valerie Skora, JHFF’s executive chair, was a recipient of one of the 20/30 Club’s Movers and Shakers award this year.

“We are excited to partner with JHFF and continue to deepen The 20/30 Club’s bonds with local young professional leaders doing amazing things for our city,” Gray says.

While participation in The 20/30 Club often falls outside of the typical work day, Gray says that she not only encourages young professionals to get involved, but also to share that engagement with their employers.

“My company has been very supportive of my efforts in the community and I could not be more grateful,” Gray says. “This is an exciting time for YPs in Cleveland and our hometown companies can help us partner in cultivating and growing our passion and commitment to creating positive change in Cleveland.”

As The 20/30 Club continues to grow its membership, Gray says this year’s board is especially passionate about creating even more opportunities for member engagement.

“The Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club is diverse and inclusive, offering a variety of experiences to our members,” Gray says. “Whether you are hoping to meet new people, volunteer, further your professional development skills or just have a good time, The 20/30 Club helps connect you throughout Cleveland. You don’t need to know an existing member, you just need to show up and join us.” 

For more information: cleveland2030.org

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