One of the best parts of working for a small nonprofit is the flexibility that arises from the work environment. FOCUS St. Louis® puts on a number of different leadership programming and networking events. One of my personal favorites is called Breakfast Connections, a bi-monthly networking event to acquaint our members with new events, places, issues, and/or policy changes that are occurring in our region. As a staff member, we are welcome to go help out in the mornings at the events. Since they are held at some really cool and unusual locations around the St. Louis region, it is a great excuse to have some free breakfast and get to explore St. Louis. As a newbie to the region, I’m always very interested in attending.
Thus, Thursday morning at 7:30 in the morning, I present myself as a FOCUS staff member at the February Breakfast Connection—held at the St. Louis Chess Club and the World Chess Hall of Fame. I am only a casual chess player myself, but the idea that there was a dedicated ‘club’ in St. Louis intrigued me, and the Hall of Fame only opened a few months ago right across the street from the club, so I wanted to see what it was all about.
Surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly, for any chess aficionados), it was incredibly cool. The chess club is a two-story building which hosts everything from the US and World Championships, to weekly classes for kids just beginning to learn how to play, to a ‘human chess’ match that they hold once a summer outside, with people representing the pieces (very Harry Potter-esque). They boast 800 members, of whom about half are only casual players. The club’s executive director welcomed the 20 or so attendees around 8 am, and then gave us a tour of the building, explaining how the Chess Club is actually partnering with local schools to use chess as a learning tool.
We then headed across the street. The World Chess Hall of Fame is brand-new to St. Louis, and is helping to make St. Louis into the chess capital of the country. It boasts not only Hall of Fame inductees, but also a gift shop (awesome) and rotating exhibits, such as the current exhibit of the world’s most famous chess sets. One set, made by the famous House of Febergé, was worth over a million dollars. It was a very fun morning, and left me with a desire to whip out my old chess set and challenge my friends.
After that, I headed into the office for the afternoon. The next step in the recruitment process for the Coro™ Fellows class is to plan the next big event—called Selection Day. After all candidates have submitted their applications for the program, they are narrowed down to 36 Finalists. These finalists are then invited to Selection Day, a full-day interview process in March. This is undoubtedly my biggest event of the year. It involves community members, finalists, staff people, and hosts of other tiny details. Since all applications have been processed, I can now finally turn my focus to this day.
I call the event space to set up a walk-through—for those of you who will ever go into event planning in any aspect, a walk-through is key—to take a look at the space and make sure it makes logistical sense, and to give myself an idea for how I need to set up. I also confirm parking arrangements with security at the building. This event is a full Saturday, so thankfully the space will be mostly empty besides our group, but regardless, this deserves a double-check. Finally, I contact our caterer to make sure she has our date on the calendar and to get some discussions of menus and pricing settled.
It’s only a start on more than a month and a half of planning, but I have put in a good afternoon’s work. I spend a few hours going over the finalist packets, making sure each individual will receive the correct information in tomorrow’s mailing, and head home after another full day.