October 27 2015

Connecting and Empowering Leaders in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast

by Sarah Damron

scott lawrence OBX credit John SuharThis year's Mid-Atlantic + Southeast Chapters Conference brought together chapter and college club activists from New York to South Carolina for a weekend of camaraderie, training, organizational updates, coordination, and sharing of real-world experiences. lunch credit Jason Camhi

"Chapter conferences are one of the highlights of my job," reflects Chad Nelsen, CEO of Surfrider Foundation. "It's a great way to connect -- to meet with activists in-person and to hear their experiences."

The conference, which was hosted by the Cape Fear Chapter in Kure Beach, NC, sought to empower attendees by providing them with the vision for the near-term future of Surfrider Foundation including new tools being developed; training on essential functions such as campaign and program planning as well as volunteer recruitment and retention; coordination on regionally-relevant efforts such as Rise Above Plastics and Not the Answer (organized opposition to offshore oil drilling and seismic testing); and a platform for sharing effective and innovative projects from the field. 

Cape Fear Chapter Chair, Ethan Crouch, stated, "As chapter level organizer, I want to say I am blown away stoked by the direction our organization is heading."

Attendees rangparty board credit John Suhared from core chapter volunteers to fledgling leaders to experienced leaders and represented nine chapters and two college clubs from throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions.

Darren Meyer, Chair of the UNCW Surfrider Foundation Club, remarked, "The conference was amazing and extremely beneficial for my leadership path in regards to my Surfrider group."

The value of annual chapter conferences extends beyond the content presented. They have an emotional value to attendees as well.

"Chapter conferences are a quintessential experience for our activists," says conference co-organizer, Sarah Damron. "Once a year, we are able to bring everyone together from chapters in regions throughout the country so that they can experience the real power that resides within our chapter network. For a chapter activist, it's one thing to be told that your chapter is a part of a nationwide network of chapters, but it's another thing to see everyone come together, witness the power in action, and be a part of that experience. For many who work so hard day-to-day on projects for their local chapter, it can be a truly moving experience to realize there are hundreds of others just like you taking time away from their families, jobs, and daily lives to protect our coasts."  group photo credit Jason Camhi