As community engagement coordinator for Community Youth Development, a local organization that serves approximately 2,000 middle school and high school students in Sarasota, Megan Wenger says she enjoys the opportunity to interact with some of the city’s most involved and promising students.
Her job is to help find ways to reach out to others within Sarasota to help fulfill the organization’s mission of providing these students with safe, positive activities and valuable life skills.
Later this month, she’ll have the chance to combine that mission with one of her favorite holidays at the fifth annual CYD Gingerbread Festival, which takes place Dec. 13 through Dec. 15, at the Westfield Sarasota Square Mall. The annual event averages about 150 gingerbread house submissions from area students, businesses and organizations, who come together to kick off the holiday season with a family-friendly activity.
Wenger, who grew up in Sarasota, says she was first drawn to the nonprofit sector as an undergrad at the University of South Florida. She was still undecided about her career path at the time, but she remembers always being drawn to opportunities to help others. So, after graduation, she pursued a master’s in nonprofit management.
“After graduate school, I’ve only worked at nonprofits,” says Wenger. “At first, I wanted to be a social worker, but I changed my mind; I thought going into nonprofit management would mean I could still do something that was helping other people, just in a different vein.”
Since she began working at CYD, she says she’s enjoyed being able to work alongside students as they develop life and leadership skills — an opportunity she wishes she had at that age. She says the Gingerbread Festival in particular fulfills both her personal desire to help others while being fun and lighthearted at the same time. CYD is currently seeking about 15 volunteers to help the event run smoothly.
“I love that we are getting to give these students a really positive activity to participate in,” she says. “After they build it, they can bring their families to see what they made. It’s fun, and it’s a seasonally appropriate activity for them to participate in with their families.”
To volunteer, visit youdbeperfectforthis.org.
BY THE NUMBERS
150 — Number of houses submitted to the festival each year
15 — Approximate number of volunteers sought this year
3,000 — Number of visitors who attended in 2012
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