Hand raisers, Step Takers, Difference Makers
By Jenna Davis
August 8, 2020
“You want to look at how to make a difference here…I really can’t think of a better way to do that than to stop in at United Way.” Gabe Eberhardt, co-chair of Emerging Leaders United (ELU), loves living and working in the Greater Lafayette community because of how generous people are with their time and money. He decided that he wanted to be part of an organization helping others in the community and looked no further than United Way of Greater Lafayette.
Emerging Leaders United began in 2017 and seeks to unite individuals under the age of forty who want to make a difference in the Greater Lafayette community. Brandy Marsh, chair of ELU, says that the group looked for opportunities to help United Way fulfill the Cradle to Career Commitment. As they learned more about funded programs and gaps in the community they saw an opportunity to prioritize helping students in Tippecanoe County to persevere through middle school: “One of the things we’re working on is a career coaching program with Tecumseh [Junior High School]…connecting students with actual working professionals” in career paths that they are interested in for mentor relationships. In addition to the Career Coach project, ELU works with serveral United Way funded partner organizations and initiatives working to support students in Greater Lafayette. Marsh’s favorite experience with ELU was a partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters in which the Emerging Leaders raised money to take the students to a Lafayette Aviators baseball game: “We actually got to connect with that group of kids that we tend to direct our service towards.” Recently, the group also packed hundreds of backpacks of school supplies for this year’s virtual Kindergarten Countdown Camp in order to help ensure that Tippecanoe County children are ready for kindergarten in August.
While the Emerging Leaders’ work is making a difference in students’ lives, ELU also provides opportunities for members to learn about their community and make connections with their peers. Eberhardt enjoys being part of the group because “it’s a great place to meet other people who are similarly situated in age but diversified into different industries and different walks of life.” He is originally from North Dakota and says that Emerging Leaders offers a unique opportunity to young adults new to the community: “If you’re not born and raised in Lafayette, you’ll learn so much so fast and get exposure” to different organizations, businesses, and initiatives within Greater Lafayette.
Marsh and Eberhardt are both committed to making Emerging Leaders United a group of “hand raisers” who make Greater Lafayette a more supportive, equitable community for young people because they have made it their home. Marsh says that “as a community, we only all succeed if everyone is getting what they need.” She also says that she enjoys working with United Way because the organization is dedicated to understanding the evolving needs of Tippecanoe County residents and initiating new partnerships and programs that meet those needs: “They take the time to make sure that funds are properly allocated based on our specific community needs.”
Emerging Leaders United is a unique avenue for Lafayette area young adults to connect with each other and their community. Marsh and Eberhardt both encourage their peers who are passionate about supporting the Greater Lafayette community to join the group for service projects and learning opportunities by visiting the ELU webpage and joining the Facebook group. Eberhardt says that involvement in ELU is never boring: “There’s always a new project…you’re always going on to something else and learning along the way.”
Brandy Marsh – ELU Chair
Brandy is a Purdue graduate and the senior environmental health and safety leader at GE Aviation, and she lives with her husband in Lafayette. Besides her role with Emerging Leaders, she enjoys serving on her church council, leading in the children’s ministry and a women’s Bible study, and volunteering at a local hospital.
Gabriel Eberhardt – ELU Co-Chair
Gabe is an associate attorney at Ball-Eggleston Law Firm in downtown Lafayette. After finishing his bachelor’s degree at North Dakota State University, he attended Valparaiso School of Law. Besides his role with Emerging Leaders, he enjoys woodworking, hunting, and fishing with his wife and two sons.