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Senior Correspondent

Our community is extremely blessed with an awesome community college. Often described as "the Crown Jewel" of our region, East Central College has provided a professional pathway for students, helping turn their personal visions into reality. A good number of these alumni have returned to our community to step into leadership and volunteer roles.

Several months ago East Central College's Center for Workforce Development invited members of our community to a working session to create a future vision for the kinds of outreach services our proactive community college might provide. Participants represented a cross-section of the community, including educators, business and economic development leaders, members of local nonprofit organizations, etc.

The Quality Coach Team Team was privileged to lead nearly 30 stakeholders through a visioning exercise to look into the future and imagine various scenarios our community would likely experience, and what kinds of outreach programming might best meet those future needs. During this process, several immediate needs were also identified.

You are well aware of one such immediate need, especially if you are serving on one or more nonprofit boards. In today's less than stable economy, nonprofits struggle just like all of us to generate revenue sources, cut costs, and serve the ever increasing needs of the populations they serve. All the while, these agencies are likely sacrificing professional development for their staff, volunteers, and boards. So pressing was this need that the Center for Workforce Development (CWD) decided to take it on immediately.

The Quality Coach Visioning Process creates a collaborative space for folks to do a little "what if" thinking together. For example, "What If there were a centralized resource offering professional development for nonprofit leaders, board members and staff?"

Collaboration around this question generated an ongoing dialogue, and the development of a plan to meet this need. The NonProfit Leadership Institute (NPLI) is currently being launched as a partnership between East Central College's Center for Workforce Development and the Nonprofit Services Center of St. Louis (NSCSL). This unique partnership between ECC and the NSCSL provides a cost-effective model for local nonprofit organizations to invest in their professionals so they can continue to deliver their respective missions. The NPLI will offer programming to help assure sustainability and build capacity. It will help participating agencies focus on their missions and realize their respective visions, all for the good of our community. This is a win-win-win-win proposition, for sure.

Just as The Quality Coach has partnered with ECC to bring about the Leadership Institute, we now have a similar program specifically for our nonprofit organizations. These two programs, along with the ECC Economic Development Center, provide a robust base for professional and organizational development. And, right here in our community. No longer do we have to travel or spend thousands of dollars for these services.

We are extremely proud of those who Gretchen Pettet dedicated themselves to taking this aspect of the CWD vision from inspired dialogue to reality. Gretchen Pettet, executive director of CWD set the implementation of this partnership as a priority, and dedicated resources to fulfill this aspect of CWD's long term vision. Colleen Himmelberg, a member of The Quality Coach team, has been extremely instrumental in bringing these two organizations together for the benefit of all concerned.

The true spirit of our community college is being expressed in this collaboration. Beginning with engaging members of the community in setting direction, and then pulling together resources from wherever they may be, to help make our community even stronger and more vibrant. For details on NPLI, contact Gretchen Pettet at (636) 239-0598 x 2955, or send your request to cwd@eastcentral.edu.

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