Two years ago, Gary Neal—an engineer and project manager with MEC Contractors-Engineers, West Melbourne, Fla.—met up with a couple other local young professionals to devise a fresh way of networking. Seeing a void in a unified voice for their generation, they started 321 Millennials to bring together professionals in Brevard County, Fla., who care about the future of their community. 

Today, the group is about 50 members strong and advocates for local nonprofits, promotes the arts and engages in local politics. They also work closely with the economic development commission to help keep the area vibrant and appealing to businesses. 

To date, 321 Millennials has adopted a beach, volunteered with the downtown arts district, defended local nonprofit funding through meetings with county commissioners, donated to the homeless, created Easter baskets for children in need, built corsages and boutonnieres for a nonprofit’s prom, created a giant Nintendo controller for the local newspaper’s technology and innovation event, and most importantly developed strong bonds with fellow business-minded professionals. 

Its next big event will be an awards ceremony this winter to help highlight local business leaders of all ages who have advocated for the millennial generation.  

“Through community service, we can provide for our local children and families in need and promote a brighter future for all citizens,” Neal says. “From a millennial perspective, working together we can achieve higher quality and faster results for improving our communities.”

Neal’s dedication to service extends to the Rockledge Rotary Club, where he increased attendance at last year’s annual fundraiser by 30 percent and doubled the group’s charitable contributions. The organization grabbed his attention with its motto, “Service Above Self,” and this year he’s the incoming president. 

“I was instantly impressed by seeing other business leaders in the community who not only talk that talk, but also walk that walk,” he says. “I have learned so much from my Rotarian mentors.”

As one of this year’s LEAD Brevard “4-Under-40” award winners, Neal hopes others will get the bug for fundraising and spreading awareness for organizations such as Crosswinds Youth Services, the Ronald McDonald House Charities, Bridges Foundation, Club Esteem, Hidden Acres Rescue for Thoroughbreds, Green Gables Historic Home and the Eau Gallie Arts District.

“Approach your community’s challenges with positivity and enthusiasm to inspire people to follow,” he advises. “Bring new and fresh ways to solve those problems and utilize your networks to achieve your goals. 

“Listen to others’ concerns and practice empathy to weigh and measure the best course of action. Ideas are great, but execution is the key.” 

Joanna Masterson is senior editor of Construction Executive. For more information, email masterson@abc.org, visit constructionexec.com or follow @ConstructionMag.