Profit to Non-Profit: New Experiences for Corporate Communications Intern

Lauren Wisnor interned with the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition during her spring semester of college. Now, with her internship completed, Lauren shares what brought her to the Ohio & Erie Canalway and what she has learned during her time here.

In November of 2016, my senior year at Walsh University, I had an epiphany. I had done a few internships with for-profit companies, but aside from working at the university, had never interned with a non-profit organization. As a corporate communications major/entrepreneurship minor, my business mind had been learning about both for-profit and not-for-profit businesses for the past four years. I was extremely curious as to how a successful non-profit organization was run.

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Lauren and her boyfriend Ryan at the Lock 4 Harvest Fest in November 2016. Harvest Fest was part of the ongoing effort Akron Civic Commons.

It was at that same exact time, as fate would have it, that Carl Musille approached me with an opportunity. I was working as an intern in the Advancement Office at Walsh – where Carl also works – when he asked me what career I was interested in pursuing. I explained to him my new found interest with non-profit and Carl immediately mentioned the Ohio and Erie Canalway Coalition (OECC). Carl is a board member here at the Canalway and spoke so highly of the CEO, Dan Rice, and every member of the team. He explained to me that they had just received a grant from the Knight Foundation and they were working on a project called Reimagining Civic Commons. He went on to talk about the Towpath and all the different events the Ohio and Erie Canalway puts on, such as the Century Ride, Captain’s Ball and Tour du Towpath. Before I knew it, I was excited about a position that I hadn’t even interviewed for yet!

Through further research of the organization, I grew to have an even deeper appreciation and understanding for what takes place at OECC. I interviewed for the position of event and development intern a few weeks later. My first impression of Dan, I would say, was spot on. He was so enthusiastic and energized. He had such a clear vision for how he planned to continue the development of the organization; an attitude that was contagious. I accepted the internship position about a week later and was so excited to begin this new journey!

My first day was January 9, 2017. It was on this day that I met some of the most caring and compassionate people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing: my co-workers. I never knew that such different people could come together to make such a great team. Everyone at OECC contributes their own style and flavor, and that is what makes this organization so wonderful.

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Guests at the 2016 Captain’s Ball. Lauren worked closely with in planning the 2017 Captain’s Ball event, which is taking place May 19. Photo by Ken Robinson.

Fast forward and I have now been working at the Ohio and Erie Canalway Coalition for more than three months. The connections (turned friends) that I have made, the knowledge I’ve gained, and the experiences I’ve been able to share with this organization are simply indescribable. I was able to work closely with Cari Danko, the event and development coordinator, on events such as the Century Ride and the Canal Boat Captain’s Ball. I helped create and design the bi-weekly e-newsletters for the Century Ride as well as personally thank every donor that contributed to the event. I was also able to network with local business owners in order to cultivate donations for the Captain’s Ball event coming up in May.

Some of the most eye opening experiences, however, came while I was sitting in on board meetings! I never knew how many people truly cared about the upkeep of the trails and recreation in the area. Every board member was so polite and welcoming. I was never, by any member of staff or board member, referred to as an “intern”; everyone that was a part of the organization viewed me as an equal, contributing member.

Unfortunately, it is nearing time for my internship experience to come to a close. I have taken away so much from working at such a successful non-profit that has exponential support behind it. If I had to sum up my experience in its entirety with one word, it would be inspiring. Prior to working at a non-profit I was the typical human being that gave the generic answer of “just wanting to help people” when I was asked about a line of work.

I can now say with certainty that the Ohio and Erie Canalway Coalition does so much more than “just help people”; they change lives. They are giving back to the Northeastern Ohio community in such a huge way through free recreational programs for children, clean-up projects in areas where there is untapped potential, and general community events that promote the health and well-being of all.

It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye, but it is with just as much pleasure that I reflect back on my experience. I cannot thank everyone enough for allowing me to share in this opportunity.

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