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Years of service, measured in happy hours

Sarah David

Sarah David

During the first three months of the year, state lawmakers, lobbyists advocates and many others gather in Annapolis to create and debate legislation. Maryland’s 90-day General Assembly session is an intense period for those who work in the political world and a hard time for those people to find time to do much beyond the endless meetings, hearings, and social events that are scheduled.

For a few accomplished women, however, this high-intensity period offered an opportunity for service. Happy Hour for a Cause is a nonpartisan opportunity for women professionals working in Annapolis to network and raise money for causes that support and empower women and their families.

The steering committee of this incredible group consists of: Andrea Mansfield, Manis, Canning & Associates; Mary Ellen Russell, The Maryland Catholic Conference; Tina Bjarekull, Maryland Independent College and University Association; Sandy Dodson, Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund; and Rachel Hise, Department of Legislative Services.

While all of these women have incredibly demanding professions, “I love the fact that these events give us a chance to take time out of our crazy schedules to enjoy each other’s company and support a good cause at the same time,” Mansfield says.

The group’s kick-off event was last June to support Sarah’s House, a supportive housing program offering emergency shelter and project-based supportive housing with an array of other services for families experiencing homelessness in Anne Arundel County. Other events have supported Seeds 4 Success, which provides children from low income communities with the skills and support to achieve success in school and life; and Success in Style, an organization that assists women and men in crisis in becoming employed through appropriate business attire,
practical fashion advice and interview counseling.

Last month’s event was to support Lighthouse Shelter, which helps to rebuild lives with compassion by providing shelter and services to prevent homelessness and empower people as they transition toward employment, housing and self-sufficiency. People are invited to the happy hours and encouraged to bring donations to these fantastic organizations, network and have a good time!

“It’s truly an uplifting experience, both to learn about the good work these nonprofits are accomplishing in our community, but also to realize what a strong commitment the women in this network have to helping others and supporting those in need,” says Dodson.

This model of service is appealing as a way to both meet interesting people in your field and to draw in people that might not otherwise attend. Russell loves working with the steering committee and meeting the individuals who are drawn to these events.

“The diversity of this group of women is amazing – we come from all walks of life, we’re young and old, we often work on opposite sides of the aisle, but when we get together we’re able to simply have a good time and celebrate how much we have in common,” she says.

For young lawyers, happy hours are a fantastic way to meet new people and network. The Happy
Hour For a Cause model adds a special component to those events and an opportunity for young
lawyers to transform a casual event into something meaningful that will encourage broader
attendance.

So, the next time your office is looking for a good way to get people to get together after work—suggest a service component! Or if your office has a standing happy hour, add a service component once a month or even every other month. It is an innovative way to both make great contacts and a huge difference.

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