Columbia Opportunity Resource: Hitting a Home Run

We can all hear this melody in our heads – baseball lover or not. “Take me out to the ball game…take me out with the crowd.” It is the American pastime that we associate with hot summer days, peanuts and hot dogs. This past April, after an eleven-season timeout, Columbia welcomed its new minor league team – the Columbia Fireflies.  Lauren Bates, originally from Charleston, is now root, root, rooting for the home team as the Fireflies office manager and resident pinch hitter.

A few years ago Lauren moved to Columbia with a paralegal job. She loved her new life in Cola Town but knew she wanted to continue growing professionally. The first step included going back to school to pursue a degree in community and organizational leadership from Columbia College. Then she was ready to put her education to work and get involved in the community. That is when she found out about a nonprofit organization called COR (Columbia Opportunity Resource).

COR was founded in 2005 through a collaborative partnership between the City of Columbia and a group of impassioned young leaders looking to create positive change by connecting young people into the social, civic, and professional fabric of Columbia. Starting in 2010 COR’s focus expanded with the Columbia Talent Magnet Project, an initiative to attract, engage, and retain students, recent graduates, recent arrivals, and young professionals, like Lauren, in the Greater Columbia region.

COR provides opportunities to connect talented professionals to diverse and meaningful networks for leadership, service and fun. In early 2015 Lauren became a member.

“I was looking for a way to meet like-minded people who are involved in the community. After attending my first event, I knew immediately COR would be a great way to make friends and learn from others,” she shared.

Soon after joining, Lauren reached out to Abby Zeiler, COR’s executive director to ask how she could get more involved. She began assisting with and participating in a variety of events for COR’s 300+ members representing over 24 industries throughout Richland and Lexington Counties.

Some of her favorite events are the CORrelate Annual Event, Time for Arts, the Race for the Place supporting St. Lawrence Place and the ACTIVATE Membership Mixers.To get a sense of the vast offerings for COR members just plug into the organization’s vibrant social media network. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter offer a wealth of current information.

Then in February of this year, Lauren’s life changed forever when she attended COR’s first Emerging Columbia event at The Palmetto Club. The topic on deck was “A Look Into the Development of Bull Street.” She was interested in learning more about the plans for this new public-private partnership. Featured panelists that day included Bob Hughes of Hughes Development, Kelsey Hennigan of Spirit Communications, Greg Hilton of SOCO and John Katz of the Columbia Fireflies.

 Following the presentation, there was an opportunity to network, a key element of all COR events. Lauren was introduced to John Katz, the new president of the Columbia Fireflies. She shared with him her enthusiasm for the project and asked if there was a way for her to get involved. “John suggested that we meet for a 7:00 am coffee. I didn’t know folks met for coffee that early,” chuckled Lauren. “So we met and had a great conversation which actually turned into an interview for my current position.”

Lauren began working for the Fireflies at the end of March only a few short weeks before opening day in April. “What an insane experience. I did everything from unloading trucks and putting stickers on cup holders to working on logistics for opening day. Along the way I have worked many events. This was different and special – our entire team worked so hard together,” said Lauren. “Our work paid off on April 14th, 9077 fans cheered on the Fireflies to a 4 to 1 victory over the Greenville Drive.”

Thanks to COR, Lauren Bates scored a homerun. The organization opened her eyes to new career possibilities and gave her the confidence to pursue her dream job. Through COR she has made new friends and is now doing something that she believes will change the community for the better.  “Everyday is like opening day at the Fireflies. Yes, it is about baseball, but it is really about much more. We are creating family experiences and memories,” concluded Lauren.

For more information about COR please visit www.ourcor.org or call 803.851.5906.

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