SAVORING SUCCESS: LWC past and present connect

COLUMBIA CITY — Leadership Whitley County (LWC) sipped and savored wines, beers, desserts and hors d’oeuvres Thursday night in an effort to raise money for the organization.Kelley Sheiss, program director for LWC, has worked to develop LWC so business men and women as well as community leaders will be able to make a difference.“What this group offers is a unique combination of creating awareness, networking and building soft skills,” said Sheiss. “We work on things such as public speaking and team building. The real special thing about LWC is it brings together a diverse group of people and that means different perspectives.”Sheiss said companies have benefited from employee participation in the group. As people from the business community interact within LWC, companies have reported having not only stronger, more dedicated employees, but enhanced communication and leadership.“People who get involved with LWC experience different learning styles. This is a big bonus when they go back to work and are leading their teams or working with customers. We are developing a better county by building people,” said Sheiss.Although Thursday’s event, held at Eagles Nest Event Center, was a fundraiser, the night was also a time for LWC alumni to reconnect with others who have gone through the program.“When you’ve gone through LWC, you are a part of a family,” Sheiss said. “The alumni stay connected and this face-to-face event is a way to network and bond with other people.”LWC is in infantile stages compared to other programs across the country. Leadership St. Louis, for example, has had the program in its city for decades. But Sheiss said for the comparatively short time LWC has been in the area, since 2001, it has seen “huge success.”One of the LWC alumni now operates within the group as a board member, Tiffany Murphy wanted to make a difference in the community and saw LWC as a chance to do that.“It’s been an eye-opening experience. I didn’t just want to live in Whitley County, I wanted to see positive changes in this county,” Murphy said. “LWC has given me the building blocks to be a community leader.”As a young up-and-comer in the county, Murphy, a Churubusco High School 2004 graduate, hopes time spent with LWC will allow for her to be a catalyst for change.“I think this county is ready to get away from the ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ mentality and look for fresh ideas and new approaches. In LWC, the discussions had at meetings and events creates new ideas,”Murphy said.Jacie Worrick attended the event last night and offered her thoughts on the benefits of LWC. “This is a really good, diverse program. It is amazing what this program does for the community. Kelley does a really good job and it has shown. There are such great ideas that come out of LWC.”According to Worrick, one of those ideas was the Splash Pad. “When Mark Green was a part of LWC, this was his dream. Because of the support he got from this group, we now have a Splash Pad,” said Worrick. “In LWC, you’re given the opportunity to run with an idea. It may sound like a dream, but the group helps you make it a reality.”Part of the evening centered around a silent auction that featured various items donated from local businesses. Between wine and beer tasting, patrons were able to sample foods from five different chefs who offered some show with their savory specialities.Sheiss said her preliminary totals show the event raised between $1,500 and $2,000 for the LWC program. “The funds raised will help support the program’s mission to empower local citizens to make an extraordinary difference by building upon essential servant leadership skills,” Sheiss said.For more information on LWC or to find out about joining next year’s group, visit