Forge Young Professionals paid it forward to area children this summer with the help of a local grant and a partnership with the Deer Creek Community Center. After receiving a generous grant from First Presbyterian Church of Topeka for the second year in a row, Forge’s Inspire Herd, the organization’s public outreach and volunteerism committee, decided to use the money to benefit Deer Creek Community Center’s summer school program.

“It's so exciting to receive this grant and partner with First Presbyterian for many reasons,” says Carolyn Zeller, chair of Forge’s Inspire Herd. “It means that the events we plan in the community don't go unnoticed and that we are making positive changes in Topeka. It also means that First Presbyterian recognizes the power, passion and motivation that Forge members, and YPs, possess and that they want to continue supporting our ideas.”

Forge chose to use the grant to benefit Deer Creek Community Center’s summer school program because of the substantial support it provides to the next generation of Topekans. “Deer Creek goes above and beyond for children they serve,” says, Lindsay Lebahn, executive director of Forge. “We wanted to contribute to a program that affords so many opportunities for kids to grow, thrive and have fun.”

On August 3 First Forge Inspire volunteers accompanied children from the Deer Creek Community Center summer school program to a back to school shopping trip at Kohl’s. Volunteers acted as personal shoppers for the children, helping them pick out shoes, clothes and accessories that fit their specific styles. “The kids had a blast modeling their clothes on the ‘catwalk’ and seeing how high they could jump in their new shoes,” said Lebahn.

In addition, Forge used the extra Kohl’s Cash earned from the Deer Creek Shopping spree to start a clothing closet at Pine Ridge Prep.

"The opportunity to make choices, have the resources available to accommodate those decisions, and have the tangible goods as proof of their economical skills was a priceless experience for the youth that participated and the adults that assisted in this adventure; And adventure it was.” says Veronica Byrd, director of the Deer Creek summer school program and parent educator at Parents as Teachers with Avondale East.

On August 8 Forge hosted an "End of Summer Family Cookout" for the program’s summer school students and their families. Forge volunteers served up hotdogs, brauts, chips and cookies. They also served up some serious fun with a water gun/supersoaker fight and water balloon toss.

Zeller affirms that many young professionals (YPs) are ardently determined to foster change and work to better their community. “As YPs, we have the power, passion and perseverance to do something to change Topeka for the better.” she says. “Volunteering gives Forge members the opportunity to understand our community better - to know who needs help and how we can help them. It's through that hands-on work, that we are going to keep making those positive changes to our community.”  

The Inspire Herd will continue to partner with the community to help improve the quality of life in Topeka.

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For more information on this subject, contact Bob Ross, SVP of Marketing and Communication, at 785.215.8362 or

Forge is Topeka’s organization for young professionals. It is free to join and works to attract and retain young talent to greater Topeka.