OLEAN, NY — When the Olean Area Young Professionals Group first met at Good Times of Olean on a Thursday in December, Christopher Michel expected 60 people to attend.

But the event exceeded his expectations. One hundred people came.

“It was a response I couldn’t believe,” Michel, the Greater Olean Chamber of Commerce director of marketing and communication, said. “We had some young professionals from Dresser-Rand and Cutco and people that were self-employed… this was something that was needed.”

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Michel said he and Larry Sorokes, the chief executive officer of the Greater Olean Chamber of Commerce, formulated the idea to establish the group several months ago.

“I remember hearing people say they wished there was some type of group like this,” Michel said.

After some planning and the creation of a Facebook page for publicity, the Olean Area Young Professionals Group has become a reality. Its successful debut at the end of 2016 established an interactive networking group that business men and women have embraced.

“We thought that a lot of major employers around here and young professionals would embrace the group, and they have done just that,” Michel said.

The group’s common theme is that they want to help the community, Michel said. In their first meeting the group contributed warm clothing and money donations to a local homeless shelter, Genesis House. The second meeting, in January, focused on raising money for Bona Buddies, St. Bonaventure University’s youth mentoring program.

Michel, who is originally from Niagara Falls and a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, welcomes university and college students to join the group in the future.

“When I graduated from St. Bonaventure, I moved to Olean for a job. When we set this up, I wished something like this existed,” Michel said.

University students such as Dahron Wells, a political science and sociology pre-law major at St. Bonaventure, suggest the group is a step in a positive direction.

“I think it is awesome that Olean has a group dedicated solely to bringing together professionals in order to network and provide opportunities to explore one's interest and further one's career,” Wells said. “I believe that getting to know people who are in the field that you are interested in is vital to your development and success as a young professional.”

Wells is considering joining the young community network.

Michel intends to gather the Olean Area Young Professionals Group for a networking event on Feb. 8, from 5:15 to 7:15 p.m., on the second floor of Four Mile Brewing, 202 E. Greene St., Olean. During the event, he also plans to organize the young professionals in becoming involved with Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit that rehabilitates homes.

“I would like to see more people come and form new business relationships,” Michel said, folding his hands on top of his desk.

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