About Us

Leadership Lancaster has been training men and women from diverse backgrounds to be stewards of our community for more than 35 years. Every day, graduates of Leadership Lancaster are making a difference in Lancaster County.

How did this legacy of service begin? Who were the key people that laid the foundation for what was to become an organization with a mission of addressing community needs? The path to Leadership Lancaster's inaugural class began in May of 1982 when the Junior League of Lancaster voted to begin a 2-year project on volunteerism. The goal of the League's project was:

"to develop a project to stimulate the community to volunteer, develop a name bank for board placement and provide publicity to clarify the League's image in the community."

At that time, the members of the Junior League felt that there had long been a need for increasing voluntarism. As an organization with expertise in developing community leaders, the League embraced the project. One of the significant outcomes of the Voluntarism Project was Leadership Lancaster and, as the Leadership Lancaster concept began to take shape, development was turned over to a project team.

The Junior League's approach to projects was to develop cooperative ventures that could be self-sustaining. The League looked to the Lancaster Chamber as its logical partner in Leadership Lancaster because the business community was key to developing new leaders and had experience across the country in developing leadership programs. Chamber President Dick Blouse selected active Chamber volunteers to join members of the Junior League to serve on the project team. The first meeting of the Leadership Lancaster project team was held in January of 1983. The goal of the project was simple:

"find and train people to work effectively as volunteers."

The project team then shaped the Leadership Lancaster program that remains today: 140 hours of class time meeting 12 times from September to May with an overview of public education, government, human services, public policy, healthcare, criminal justice, the arts, and economic development in Lancaster County. Participants work on community action teams and learn leadership skills that also enhance performance in the workplace. In 1983, as with the present, the selection process played a key role in Leadership Lancaster's design. The project team's objective was:

"a diverse, energetic, interesting and committed class of participants with a common desire to be as effective as possible in their volunteer roles."

Each graduate of Leadership Lancaster has their own experiences. The program changes with each group and it has also changed with the times and with the understandings of the vital components of Lancaster and the needed competencies of leadership. The curriculum is continuously evolving with the different participants and the transformations of Lancaster County.

By May of 1983, the project team was formalized into the first Leadership Lancaster Board of Directors, lead by John Synodinos, Chair. A part time executive director was hired to oversee the organizations daily operations. Recruitment for the first class included a letter sent to local businesses which sought help in identifying, nominating and sponsoring candidates for the inaugural class. That inaugural class began their journey in September of 1983, just 16 months from the time the Junior League began the project on voluntarism.

In 1989, the Leadership Lancaster organization had grown significantly, resulting in the hiring of a full time executive director. Then, in 1990, the Executive Orientation Series was launched as a pilot program for Ford New Holland. A program to facilitate and encourage interaction among executives and their spouses who are new to Lancaster County, the EOS now boasts 29 graduating classes with over 500 alumni. In 1997, the Senior Volunteer Series was started in collaboration with Retried and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of the American Red Cross. After four years and 120 graduates the program was incorporated into the work of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) with the American Red Cross. 2008 saw the creation and rollout of the Board Leadership Academy, resulting in hundreds of board members receiving training on governance. Finally, the College Core Class began in 2017 through a partnership with Franklin & Marshall and has since expanded to Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology and the Attollo Program.

Today, the success of Leadership Lancaster is evident in the 3,000+ graduates who have been privileged to participate. Over 100 companies in Lancaster County sponsor Leadership Lancaster programs, and over 125 community leaders volunteer each year as faculty and facilitators for the class sessions. This has resulted in well-trained, dedicated alumni who are serving their community in countless ways. At least half of graduates have maintained or increased their volunteer hours since graduation.

Lancaster owes it gratitude to the insightful leadership of the Junior League of Lancaster and the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce. Their initiative has resulted in a strong and impactful organization which continues to carry out its mission in a way that benefits all residents of Lancaster County.

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