Published on January 26th, 2011 | by Joe Lawler
2010 YP of the Year: Winner Chris Diebel, 30
Chris Diebel was one of five finalists for the inaugural Juice Young Professional of the Year award last year. This year, he took home the prize.
At a ceremony Jan. 17 at Jasper Winery in Des Moines, Diebel, 30, received the award, which recognizes central Iowans younger than 35 whose social, charitable, civic or cultural efforts improved the quality of life in the Des Moines area. Around 90 guests attended, including young professional and business leaders.
“We live in a wonderful community that embraces young professionals and allows unprecedented opportunities to get involved,” Diebel, the marketing director for Orchestrate Hospitality, said during his acceptance speech. “For those of us who take advantage of these opportunities, Des Moines is truly a fertile ground for cultivating a rich life.”
Among Diebel’s many contributions to central Iowa in 2010: He was elected to the executive board for Winefest, Hoyt Sherman Place and the Des Moines West Side Chamber of Commerce, worked with the boards for StageWest and the Ingersoll Business Association and the planning committees for Yankee Doodle Pops and Heroes for the Homeless.
“I’m honored to be standing next to him,” said fellow finalist Anthony Rodari, 29, who has known Diebel since high school. “It’s very exciting to be included in a group that demonstrates what a young professional in the Des Moines area should be.”
Diebel’s rise to involved community leader began while still a student at Roosevelt High School, when he called Soozie McBroom, co-chair of Restoration Ingersoll and now a close friend. He asked her how he could help in the Ingersoll neighborhood.
“I think it’s been fun to watch him grow and develop into a real community leader,” McBroom said. “He’s one of those people that has to be involved, rather than waiting for someone to ask. I think that’s a sign of someone who is really wanting to do his part.”
This spring Diebel is helping McBroom with Bubble Ball, an autism benefit with a fashion show and decorations and sculptures made from bubble wrap (which is used in sensory therapy for autism).
“It’s easy to get involved with a project when I know there are great people working on it,” Diebel said. “As you get asked to do more and more things, it becomes very addictive.”
Diebel said getting involved with autism hadn’t really been on his radar. His focus has largely been on more cultural causes, an area of giving Diebel feels has lost some steam in a weakened economy. He recognizes the importance of social causes, but growing up with parents involved in community theater (his step-father is executive director of the Des Moines Playhouse), and acting himself, cultural nonprofits will likely always be his passion.
In addition to his extracurricular activities, Diebel is halfway through his master’s program in public administration at Drake University. Despite his involvement, he strives to make it home by 7 p.m. each night to cook dinner. He credits Orchestrate, which operates popular spots such as Django, Centro and Gateway Market, with allowing him the flexibility to do so much for his various causes.
“Chris has kind of developed his position so that a big part of his job is community outreach,” said Orchestrate president Paul Rottenberg. “His involvement means keeping our brands in front of the public in a variety of ways. He’s allowed us to be a small company that is very involved in the community.”
As for the future, Rottenberg sees big things for Diebel.
“It wouldn’t surprise me to see him get more involved in the community somehow, maybe even government,” Rottenberg said. “He’s really dedicated to the fabric of the Des Moines community.”
Diebel’s tips for getting involved if you’re new to town, or not heavily involved yet:
1. “Focus on causes that mean something to you. It’s great to be involved in general, but it’s truly rewarding when you are working for something you are personally vested in. We all have causes and hobbies we favor. Think about what makes you happiest and apply it to the nonprofit world. I guarantee there is a lid for every pot.”
2. “Make time to network with leaders and potential mentors. Don’t wait until you need something. Go out and meet people you admire simply to get to know them. I’m constantly astounded by how much I learn from these encounters.”
3. “Before you jump into a multi-year board commitment, volunteer on a planning committee for a one-time event. You will learn a lot about the organization and it will give you an opportunity to decide if you want to commit more of your time to that particular group.”
Chris talks about how lucky young professionals in Des Moines are to have the opportunity to become involved and take leadership positions in so many ways.