The Urban League of Greater Columbus installed its 2014 board of directors Thursday, ushering in a new era for the 42-year-old organization.
The 25 people installed were recently nominated at a retreat, where they received training from the National Urban League's vice president for affiliate affairs, according to a news release. On Thursday, they took the oath of office in a ceremony officiated by State Court Judge Ben Richardson. The ceremony was held in the plaza of the Government Center, where about 65 people gathered.
Board chairwoman Susan Cooper said the Urban League is committed to pulling people out of poverty and encouraged those in the audience to donate to the organization and become members.
"This generation is being charged with taking the Urban League to a whole new level," she said. "And not only will we talk the talk, but we will walk the walk."
After the ceremony, the Urban League's new President and CEO Brooke Burgess gave a State of the Urban League Address, informing the crowd of the progress she has made since being hired in December. Prior to moving to Columbus, she served as director of Marine Corps Family Team Building in Yuma, Arizona.
Burgess, a 12-year veteran of the nonprofit sector, said she spent her first 40 days with the Urban League attending national training, applying for grants, meeting people and getting the office in order. She said she will start a church tour this Sunday to introduce herself to the community. The next steps, she said, are to develop a strategic plan and upgrade technology.
"I'm going to tell you something, I go home every night exhausted, but I'm burning in my belly to get back the next day, that's how awesome this job is," she said. "And I thank the board for the opportunity to serve."
Burgess said the organization also will be reviving several programs, including prison re-entry, youth summer employment, computer classes, foreclosure prevention and housing initiatives. She said a budget would be presented to the executive committee within the next month and the organization, which has been operating with part-time staff, will hire permanent employees soon.
"We were one of the top Urban Leagues not too long ago," Burgess said. "And I expect to be there pretty shortly with the team that I've got."
The board chose Burgess after months of trying to rebuild the Urban League, which was stymied by political divisions in the black community. The last president and CEO was Reginald Pugh, who resigned from the organization in August 2012.
Those in attendance included former Mayor Bob Poydasheff, who gave the welcome, and Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who made a few remarks.
"The Urban League, when it was begun in the early years of the last century, began to address issues of employment and housing in urban environments and that mission is more relevant today than it was even then," Tomlinson said. "So the fact that we stood up as a community, that you all stood up, and said, 'We do need an Urban League and we're going to have a productive, highly effective Urban League,' just shows the Columbus, Georgia, spirit."