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Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018

40 Under Forty

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Emerie Eck Gentry named 2018 top professional

Forty young community professionals were honored by the Northwest Louisiana Young Professionals Initiative (YPI) at the 11th annual Gala on Dec. 1.

These nominees were all in the running for the Young Professional of the Year award, sponsored by 318 Forum magazine. This award is a time-honored and prestigious recognition of hardworking, generous, intelligent local men and women and the acknowledgment of their success and achievements in the community.

This year’s Young Professional of the Year winner is Emerie Eck Gentry.

“Each year the Chamber is pleased to recognize engaged and involved emerging leaders through our 40 Under Forty Program,” Dr. Timothy Magner, president of the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, said. “For most of the past five years, Emerie has been a driving force behind the Chamber’s Young Professionals Initiative in addition to her efforts on behalf of other organizations. We’re delighted that Emerie has been recognized by her peers for her tireless dedication to promoting Shreveport-Bossier’s young professionals and look forward to her continued contribution to our organization and our region.”

Those who nominated Gentry said that she “has given selflessly to the community for which she serves. Balancing work, attending college and raising future leaders – two children – within the Shreveport community, Gentry leads the charge for philanthropic activities. She embodies what the community is striving for, a humble leader that is not afraid to help others and serve the community she is so fond of.”

“Emerie Eck Gentry is community champion for our city and surrounding areas. She’s the epitome of what 40 Under Forty represents – a young business professional who supports Shreveport with her work, talents and personal time,” said Shondale Smith Coleman, YPI chair. “She’s touched the lives of so many young professionals in our area over the years for the better, through her dynamic leadership in a number of nonprofits, boards, other community groups. With a servant like Emerie in our community, anything is possible for our city.”

Gentry started her professional career in early 2008 at the Shreveport Job Corps Center as their Work-Based Learning Specialist, where she was responsible for the Work-Based Learning (WBL) program, which consisted of creating and implementing opportunities for students to grow professionally through internships, field trips, job shadowing, cooperative education classes and community service projects. “This is where my love of connecting with the community began,” Gentry said. “Over the course of five years, I rebuilt this program from scratch, created more than 75 employer and community partnerships and turned it into one of the top performing WBL programs in the country among all of the Job Corps Centers.”

In 2013, Gentry was hired by Rouse Properties as the common area coordinator for both Pierre Bossier Mall and Mall St. Vincent, where she was responsible for coordinating all business development activity for the common areas to include advertising, sponsorships and retail tenants. “I was instrumental in driving an additional $350,000 in revenue through the business development pipeline during my three years there,” Gentry said.

After a change in leadership at Rouse Properties that resulted in layoffs, Gentry found herself unemployed in 2016. “That was an extremely difficult time for me,” she said. “Luckily, I had some wonderful people in my life that looked out for me, even when I was too proud to ask for help. My best friend informed me of a part-time position at the CenturyLink Center. I applied and started working with event services. A few months later, upper management asked me to take on a big project – to create and implement a transportation and parking plan for the Garth Brooks World Tour. I happily accepted!”

Thus started a whirlwind of opportunities over the next several years for Gentry at CenturyLink, the Bossier Arts Council and beyond, including freelance work at various businesses.

Gentry’s extensive list of community involvements include volunteering or serving on committees with the Bossier Arts Council, ARTini Planning Committee, Downtown Shreveport Lions Club, Dress for Success Shreveport-Bossier, the Food Bank of North Louisiana, Highland Blues & Jazz Festival, Mudbug Madness Festival, James Burton International Guitar Festival, Junior Achievement of North Louisiana, JA Spark program, Vacation Bible School, Red River Arts Festival and the Rotary Club of Bossier City – to name just a few.

“I’m extremely passionate about giving back to our community for many reasons, mainly because of how this community has embraced me,” Gentry said. “In 2011, my now ex-husband and I were going through a divorce. Every other weekend I would be alone while my kids were visiting their dad. Instead of crawling under the covers, I asked my fellow YPI members to keep me in mind for volunteer opportunities.”

The YPI team asked her to serve as 40 Under Forty committee co-chair. Then other members began to seek Gentry out for other volunteer work. “It was such a blessing! It helped me find myself again after a difficult time and allowed me the opportunity to utilize my time and talents for the greater good and make some amazing friends along the way,” Gentry said.

Gentry wants to encourage other young professionals in the community, as well.

“Success is adapting to the season that you are in,” she said. “Do what you can while you are in this season and have faith in God’s plan and timing.”

– Besty St. Amant Haddox

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