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A screen capture of a recent YPOW meeting via Zoom.

Virtually Maintaining a Strong Community, Culture BY ASHLEY VELEZ

Earlier this spring, as the world shifted in response to social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, residents and business owners of Cherokee County joined together as a community in a way that we’ve been known to do so many times before. For almost five years, Young Professionals IN WDSTK (YPOW) has gathered weekly on Thursday mornings at Copper Coin, with the only exceptions being holidays or Cherokee County school closings. Much like everyone else, after years of in-person gatherings, with approval from IN WDSTK leadership, we were able to pivot and plan weekly meetings via Zoom instead. These Zoom meetings will continue into the weeks ahead as needed, but the amazing thing about YPOW, and the community built around Woodstock and Cherokee County, is, even if we can’t be physically together, the culture remains as strong as ever. This is especially evident in some of the recent responses received when we asked how working from home has affected business and networking. “I thrive on networking and connection, and the Zoom meetings have actually become more intimate, because, from behind a screen, people find themselves being more vulnerable with less fear of judgement. Having one screen where you’re seeing a person’s emotions and really hearing them, is actually really amazing,” said David Samaha, YPOW attendee 38


It’s true. In these past few weeks, we’re still building relationships, giving back, and growing our community. Sure, we miss being able to hug each other hello (spoiler: there’s lots of that at YPOW!), and that sentiment is strong with the regulars who’ve joined us via Zoom. Many of us are using FaceTime, social media posts and videos to connect, and even have organized and participated in online happy hours to stay connected. Thankfully, morale and engagement remain high, and many of us have made a point to check in with one another more frequently, and with more intention. “Checking in on folks and asking how they’re doing mentally, physically reminds us that we’re human. It’s important now more than ever to not be embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help. There are neighbors, friends and family who can and will help,” said YPOW attendee Kristy Johnson. I know I can speak for everyone in YPOW when I say that we’re looking forward to continuing to meet (whether online or back in person, once it's safe to do so), and fulfill our mission of connecting, energizing and building stronger relationships for the young professionals in Woodstock.

Ashley Velez handles social media for YPOW and is a digital marketing expert. She is a proud resident of Woodstock, where she lives with her husband Oscar and their two sons.

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