May 2024

Groundbreakers Young Professionals

JE Dunn’s Groundbreakers group has evolved significantly over the past three years, transforming from a project engineer peer group into a dynamic organization for young professionals. Originally focused on field project work, Groundbreakers now emphasizes networking and professional development, engaging young professionals across various roles within the company. With active chapters in Kansas City and Omaha and plans for further expansion, the group organizes diverse events such as lunch and learns, happy hours, and volunteer projects.

“We exist to engage an array of young professionals at JE Dunn, whether they’re working in the field, in an office environment, or in roles that blend the two,” explained Corporate Marketing Specialist Rilie Barnes, underscoring the group’s inclusive approach.

One of Groundbreakers’ most impactful volunteer initiatives was the MLK Square Park project. This effort began when Kansas City Parks & Recreation reached out to JE Dunn for assistance with the park where the 15 and the Mahomies Foundation had built a playground, but it was missing a shelter. Recognizing the community’s need, Groundbreakers volunteered to take on the project. With support from JE Dunn’s leadership, they organized a comprehensive project plan and collaborated with the Parks & Rec department to successfully construct a shelter.

The Groundbreakers were instrumental during the playground’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, providing refreshments and engaging with the community. The project’s success highlighted the group’s ability to leverage company resources and trade partnerships while making a meaningful community contribution.

Nancy Phelps, community impact director, expressed her admiration for the Groundbreakers’ commitment and teamwork. “It’s been really incredible to watch the team mobilize and build partnerships to make a difference in the community,” she said. This spirit of collaboration was further evident in their next major project at Banneker Elementary School.

A chance visit to the MLK Square Park shelter led to the Banneker project. After seeing the shelter, a local volunteer who leads an educational garden at the school reached out to JE Dunn for help building a shade structure for the children working in the garden. Groundbreakers eagerly adopted the challenge. They moved garden beds to accommodate construction, coordinated with trade partners, and built a much-needed shelter, ensuring the children could continue their gardening activities comfortably.

These projects have not only fostered community engagement but also provided Groundbreakers with invaluable opportunities to interact with JE Dunn executives, Barnes said. Such interactions, rare at early career stages, offer mentorship and networking opportunities, enhancing their professional growth within the company.

The projects at MLK Square Park and Banneker Elementary School showcased the Groundbreakers’ ability to organize, execute, and deliver impactful community projects. They demonstrated how volunteer efforts, backed by corporate support, can create lasting positive changes, Phelps said.

Groundbreakers’ journey reflects a blend of professional development, community service, and corporate support, illustrating how young professionals can drive meaningful change. Through their projects, they not only enhance their own skills and networks but also leave a lasting positive impact on the communities they serve.