Young Professionals 2 Follow honors its third class of future leaders
With careers ranging from banking to marketing, engineering, real estate and forestry management, the 2018 class of Young Professionals 2 Follow represents fields that will ensure Aiken’s future will be strong.
The Aiken Standard and Atlantic Broadband recognized four women and six men – many of them Aiken County natives – Thursday night during a banquet at Woodside Plantation. This year’s recipients are not only strong leaders at work. They also are dedicated and committed to their community through service to others.
This year’s Young Professionals 2 Follow are Kevin Dozier, Jenifer Granade, Jonathan Larry, Nicole Pioli, Sean Pumphrey, K.T. Ruthven, Amanda Sims, Lee Sims, Sara Sowers and Bennett Tucker.
“This year’s honorees are not only young professionals that many of us want to follow, but we also want to join them in some of the wonderful things they’re doing in Aiken,” Aiken Standard Publisher Rhonda Overbey said. “The leaders being recognized tonight, as well as the classes of 2016 and 2017, are the elite among a healthy group of young professionals committed to making a difference in Aiken. We may not have the population quantity we wish for, but we more than move the needle in the quality of young professionals in Aiken.”
A North Augusta native, Kevin Dozier is a mental health professional at the Aiken-Barnwell Mental Health Center. On Saturdays, Dozier works at Community Care and Counseling of Aiken to complete the supervised hours he needs to become fully licensed as a licensed professional counselor.
“I honestly didn’t think I would be named a young professional,” he said. “I never did think I would get to a level where I would be recognized as a professional. To be recognized as a professional is a different feeling for me. It’s a step higher than I realized that I was at. And that’s a good thing – a very good thing.”
A native of Florence, Jenifer Granade is the sales and marketing manager at Atlantic Broadband. She is active in community service as a member of the Aiken Mid-Day Lions Club and the Aiken Rotary Club.
“It’s a great honor because there are so many deserving individuals in our community,” Granade said. “I don’t feel like I’m here because of things that I’ve done. I feel like there are other people who have helped me along the way, that molded me and shaped me into the person I am. I feel like you can do much more with more people as a group than alone. One person can make a difference, but a village can make an impact that can lead to change.”
A North Augusta native, Larry is the senior marketing and research director with the Economic Development Partnership at USC Aiken. In his position, he works with businesses and industries in Aiken, Edgefield, Saluda and McCormick counties and also provides information to businesses that are interested in locating and bringing new jobs to the region.
“It was truly an honor to be named a Young Professional 2 Follow and to serve the community and to make a positive impact on people’s lives,” Larry said. “It’s something I will continue to do. I’m thankful for every opportunity I’ve had, and I look forward to continuing the work.”
An Aiken resident since 2016, Nicole Pioli is the program and volunteer coordinator for the Great Oak Aiken Therapeutic Riding Center. With degrees in public health and social work, Pioli provides equine-assisted activities that promote the physical, psychological and emotional needs of people of all ages with special needs.
“It’s a real honor to be nominated,” Pioli said. “It’s been an exciting year for me here in Aiken, getting Great Oak off the ground. We have an exciting summer ahead, and I think it’s an exciting opportunity to bring attention to our organization and get young people involved as volunteers and let people know who we’re serving in the community.”
Another Aiken native and South Aiken High graduate, Sean Pumphrey is an account executive with Atlantic Broadband. A U.S. Army veteran, Pumphrey assists homeless veterans, volunteering at shelters and helping organize drives to provide basic supplies veterans need every day.
Pumphrey said he’s excited to “mix it up” with the other young professionals.
“I’m honored to be included in this class with all of them,” he said. “The young professionals across Aiken are doing some amazing things. It’s an honor to be here and to see us getting involved with the community outside our professions and giving back to the community. That means so much to me.”
K.T. Ruthven, who moved to Aiken from New Jersey after college, is a broker associate with Coldwell Banker, helping people of all ages realize the American dream of owning a home. Ruthven also is active in the local and state Republican Party.
“It’s an honor to be named as a young professional,” he said. “I’d like to thank the people who helped me along the way, such as my parents, Ronald and Margo Ruthven; my wife, Martha, for her support; my business partner, Fred Wicks, for being a great mentor and someone I can always bounce ideas off of and who has helped me a lot along the way; and all my other mentors.”
Born and raised in Aiken, Mandy Sims is the operations manager for UPS Trade Management Services. She is dedicated to community service, especially with the United Way of Aiken County and Habitat for Humanity.
“I feel very blessed to receive this honor and to be recognized as a Young Professional 2 Follow, but for me, it’s another platform for me to speak about the things I’m passionate about in Aiken, which is United Way and the different organizations that help our community,” she said. “It’s not really about me. It’s really about the things I’m passionate about.”
A native of Aiken, Lee Sims is the deputy facility manager for the K Area complex with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions at the Savannah River Site. Like his wife, Mandy, who also is one of this year’s Young Professionals 2 Follow, Sims is active in community service as the chairman of the Young Philanthropists Society and on the board of the United Way of Aiken County.
“It’s obviously an honor and a privilege to be nominated,” Sims said. “I still feel undeserving. To see what all the other young professionals do for the community makes me feel proud that I’m a part of this community and to be selected with the others. It’s amazing what some of the other young people are doing. It’s very impressive, whether it’s working with veterans or in Hitchcock Woods, I’m honored to be recognized at that level.”
Sara Sowers, a branch manager with Security Federal Bank, followed her parents, Vic and Pam Sowers, to Aiken after they retired here in 2015. Sowers’ community service focuses in children and families through her volunteer work with Helping Hands and Aiken Youth Empowerment.
“I’m really excited to be here tonight,” Sowers said. “It means a lot that the community has come together to support me. I’m really honored. I’d like to say thank you to everybody. I’m very appreciative to be here.”
Another Aiken native, Bennett Tucker is the woods supervisor for the Hitchcock Woods Foundation. In his position, Tucker is the forest manager and steward of the Hitchcock Woods’ more than 2,000 acres and 70 miles of trails.
“To be included in this group is not only humbling, but it’s also a great recognition of all our involvements in our walks of life,” Tucker said. “I was reading through the articles about everybody, and it was neat to learn about everybody else and see how we give back to the community in our own ways along with our main jobs. To be included with this class is a great honor.”
Eric Brinkley, a member of the 2016 class and the manager of Aiken Laundromats, and Danny Minolfo, a member of the 2017 class and a co-owner of Lionel Smith Ltd., welcomed the members of the class or 2018.
“Welcome to the club,” Brinkley said. “There are no 10 people more deserving.”
Minolfo said he noticed a common thread among this year’s class: a servant’s heart.
“Each of you are successful in your businesses and professional careers, so it’s nice to see that each of you take it a step further and help others in their time of need,” he said.
Liz Stewart, the president of Stewart and Associates Inc., was the guest speaker.
The other sponsors for the event were Aiken’s First Baptist Church, SRNS, Economic Development Partnership, Hitchcock Woods Foundation and the United Way.