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Rebuilding IPRA Requires Work
As a result of a recent trip to Joplin, Lori Kay Paden noted some similarities between the restoration of Joplin and the restoration of Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA). Both require hard work by many volunteers, and both require foundation rebuilding. Read Paden's thoughts in "IPRA Today" about rebuilding IPRA.
Lori Kay, IPRA Chair, Shares Goals
Lori Kay Paden assumed the Chair of the Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA) at the January, 2011 Joint State Conference attended by over 4,200 park, recreation, sport and tourism professionals. IPRA has a membership of over 2,900 park, recreation, sport and tourism professionals. Lori Kay, an undergraduate student advisor in the College of Applied Health Sciences, also regularly conducts seminars and workshops for professionals across the state. Lori shares her thoughts about goals for the organization below.
How long have you been involved with IPRA?
I’ve been involved in the Illinois Park and Recreation Association since graduate school. I reinvigorated their student section with Dr. Laura Payne—we go way back. After graduating, I plugged into the IPRA as I've always been a firm believer in professional development, networking and connecting with professionals in the field.
What form has your involvement taken?
I started out being involved in the facility management section, planning workshops for managers of fitness and aquatics facilities on customer service, which is still my thing. I've been on the board as the Central Illinois representative since 2003, serving on a variety of committees connected to college and university relations. I chaired the wellness committee and created a state-wide employee wellness award called NELB, No Employee Left Behind.
I also revived and rejuvenated the Foundation’s Silent Auction, which raises scholarship funds for students.
Within our region, I planned and executed workshops for professionals in CIRCLE, Central Illinois Recreation Council for Leisure Education, which is the affiliate group of the IPRA for all central Illinois parks and recreation professionals. I ran a couple of workshops a year for them. I was elected secretary of the board in 2009, and ran for chairman-elect a year later.
What's your main goal for this year?
IPRA went through some rough times over the last three years, and the executive team and the board has been working really hard to rebuild it. A group of 23 professionals in different positions across the state created a strategic plan that's divided up into six areas, so I'm in an excellent position this year to implement this plan that was created for our members by our members. I'm focusing on three of the six areas to take IRPA to the next level.
What are the three areas you’re focusing on?
I’m focusing on education—improving the efficiency and quality and variety because we’re so diverse, from our young professionals to our seasoned directors. One other area that I really want to focus on is building awareness of our profession, and how amazing we are. I’m also focusing on membership communication. We're revamping our entire website and the processes through which we communicate. Finally, I'm focusing on our governance. We're looking to making changes in bylaws and in the way our board is structured.
What do you want your legacy to be?
What I’m really known for is energizing and motivating people. We’ve got our plan. I want to kick it into gear and then fire up the people who are already involved, as well as attract some new volunteers and get some fresh faces in there to carry the organization to the next level.
Many professional associations have trouble bringing in younger members—how will you address that challenge?
Another part of our strategic plan focuses on the importance of networking and educating young professionals and developing professional connections for them. Our new executive director, Jan Arnold, is a shaker and a mover. Her background is in YMCAs, so we’re really looking to connect with other types of recreation providers and grow the organization. We’re really working toward that member value so the young professionals can see the benefits of joining. In RST, whether I'm working with students in recreation, sport, or tourism, I’m really trying to connect them with professional associations because that's where it has to start.
How will your work with IRPA inform your work in RST?
I love to bring the outside world in and give our students that practical experience. I've just sent out an email blast to our students to let them know that a representative of the Resort and Commercial Recreation Association coming in. She works at a resort in Anguilla in the Caribbean, and she's coming to talk about recreation and programming and events. I've been talking with Cary McDonald about getting involved in the other associations so I can plug our students into them.
You're going to be busy—looking forward to it?
I am! I've got a great team, people coming forward and asking how they can help. I have great support from Robin Hall in the Office of Recreation and Park Resources, the department, and the college. I really want this to be a win-win for all.