Lift360: My Lesson In Community Support

By Cullen Martin
Messer Truck Equipment Operations Manager
The holidays are a time for giving and remembering what’s important in life. I recently had a chance to take part in an amazing program that’s enabled me to give back to our community in ways I never could have before.
Lift360, a Maine nonprofit organization geared toward developing leaders in the community and the nonprofit world, offers many excellent programs, and I was privileged to be a member of its Emerging Leaders class for 2016 this fall.
This program is designed to address the need for board leadership in the nonprofit sector, which contributes more than $10 billion annually to the Maine economy. Lift360 trains and then matches course graduates with organizations in need of help. My 29 class members and I were learning what’s needed to serve on a nonprofit board effectively.
During this program, I enjoyed meeting people from a wide variety of organizations, especially those in my group, who share a desire to give back to the community in a meaningful way. I learned a lot about a vital – and huge – segment of our state. Like most people, I had no idea going into this that almost 20 percent of Maine’s economy is made up of nonprofits. I was surprised to learn that one in seven people is employed by a nonprofit here.
Over the course of three months, our class met about a dozen times at locations in Greater Portland, for activities ranging from an opening weekend on Cow Island in Casco Bay for team-building, to a tour of the Portland Symphony Orchestra at Merrill Auditorium to learn about organizational development, to observing local boards in operation. Although I’ve served on a board in the past, I gained a greater understanding of the leadership skills required to serve on a board, about board governance, and about fiduciary obligations and other important responsibilities – basically the nuts and bolts of serving on a nonprofit board.
I’ve since been matched with the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts, which offers internationally recognized residencies, workshops, educational initiatives, facilities, talks and public events for artists and the community in and around Newcastle, Maine. This organization appealed to me on many levels. I liked its size, its history and mission, the balance between strategic and tactical work, and that I would have the opportunity to help guide the organization as it embarks on an ambitious expansion.
Messer Truck Equipment President, Jeff Messer, who is also a graduate of the Emerging Leaders program, nominated me for this opportunity. Jeff has been involved ever since with the Pine Tree Council, Boy Scouts of America. He’s on its executive board, and in January, he’ll start a two-year term as volunteer president of the council.
I’m grateful to Jeff for allowing me to take part in this amazing experience, and to the staff members at Lift360 for creating such a positive program. It’s an invaluable service for our state’s nonprofit organizations.
I look forward to my time working with my nonprofit and growing both personally and as a member of our community.
Messer’s Cullen Martin, seated, makes a point during the planning and design phase of a team project in an Emerging Leaders session this fall. Martin was the project manager for the group, which was attempting to build a push cart out of PVC components for a race.