This post was written by LDA Class of 2019-2020 Team LIT member Gina Koehl of Rock County. Other team members include: Mary Wallisch, Johnson Financial Group; Tim Kienbaum, Town of Beloit; Daniel Ozga, Bank of Milton; and Jessica Baker, Data Dimensions.
Creation of Team Leaders in Training
After learning more about ourselves and our personalities using Real Colors, Linda carefully grouped us into teams based on our background, personality, and strengths. We did not quite understand the impact of this carefully thought out plan but we sure appreciated it once we got started!
We all immediately began to bond and learned more about each other both personally and professionally. From here we began brainstorming community service projects and the kinds of non-profits we would be interested in helping out.
A theme that quickly emerged was that our team was interested in serving the youth of Rock County.
Valuable Lessons/Changing Courses
One of our group members felt a strong and personal connection to engaging in a project that would help teens avoid and hopefully stop vaping. Our team began researching literature and statistics about vaping.
Vaping was on the news and in the newspapers all the time. We were shocked to learn how much worse vaping is than smoking regular cigarettes.
We met with Janesville Mobilizing for Change (JM4C) to see how we could best help them achieve their goal of educating teens and families about the dangers of vaping. We learned that there are numerous free online resources available to help schools with this mission.
We had ideas to put together a fun run to raise funds for JM4C, organizing a poster contest for middle schoolers, or possibly a TIK TOK challenge.
After meeting with Brian Anderson in November 2019, we decided to change course and choose a different project. Brian encouraged our team to “think big” and “make a measurable difference.” So, just like our group session at Community Action in which we were first asked to build a star and then a sailboat, we set sail down a new path!
Achieving Project Goals
Our team quickly realized that the answer to a project was right in front of us because “we know a guy”. Our team member Tim works for the Town of Beloit and he explained to us that the township had developed an idea to take the unused green space behind Fire Station #2 and turn it into a learning arboretum to help the community learn about unique tree species.
The idea quickly took hold and we were off and running. We met with Mark Dwyer, owner of Prescriptions by MD, who drew us a design sketch of our proposed green space. Mark also was very helpful in giving us suggestions for unique trees to showcase in our arboretum.
We then began working with Wirkus on pricing/availability to secure the trees for our project.
Team LIT has faced numerous challenges along the way. The COVID-19 pandemic essentially shut down our world as we knew it in March 2020.
Our group had just finished creating a beautiful colorful flyer and were ready to begin our fundraising effort by pitching our idea to local businesses to request monetary and in-kind donations. Due to businesses being shut down by COVID, we had no idea how we were going to achieve this task.
We were extremely fortunate that our team member Jessica’s employer donated a substantial amount of money to help us achieve our goal!
We as group members encountered personal challenges in the form of traumatic events and health issues that occurred in our lives during the course of this project as well. However, we were ultimately able to overcome these obstacles by stepping up and pitching in and taking the lead when other members were struggling.
I believe that this is the ultimate lesson because effective leaders always step up to help each other out when they need it the most.
Team LIT communicated, shared ideas, and listened to each other. We were encouraging and respectful with each other. We realized that there were no wrong or bad ideas. These are all excellent qualities of effective leaders.
It was stressful to change projects three months in but it helped that everyone’s strengths and weaknesses balanced each other out. Each of our team members played an essential role in our group.
We have to remember that in life, plans change. However, effective leaders work together as a team to overcome obstacles together!