By Emma Johnston
At the midpoint of my college experience, an internship with LLF was as unexpected as it was delightful. Toward my pursuit of a Sociology major and Environmental Science minor (but with only a handful of related courses under my belt, post-Gen Ed requirements), I was hoping to find meaningful seasonal work. Admittedly, I was unsure where I’d find it, or even what it would look like. Heading into May, I was all but braced to experience the social sciences within F&B or retail – and, frankly, I would have been grateful for the gig. But that mystical summertime break from the norm presented itself in a response from LLF Director of Marketing and Communications, Jordan Amaker, to my against-all-odds email inquiry. I’d reached out on familiarity with the remarkable work of LLF, not necessarily on faith that they’d need an intern, let alone a half-cooked liberal arts one like me. Thankfully, Jordan recognized my enthusiasm and gave me points for gumption. I was hired.
Over the past 3 months, I was steeped in various programs and platforms, from WordPress to Google Adwords to MailChimp… even the backend of LLF’s mobile app. I sat in on meetings between LLF team members, as well as with marketing-related stakeholders, giving me a street-level view of how creative and resourceful these team members and their community partners are, and how they’re able to collaborate and communicate with one another so efficiently and effectively. I was able to help facilitate four of this year’s Local Socials, experiencing (as a moderately participatory fly-on-the-wall) networking and thoughtful engagement between local business owners. More each event, I felt comfortable mixing with the members, and felt such a friendly charge chatting with Lowcountry entrepreneurs and advocates I hold in such high esteem. I’m so grateful to have had not only the opportunity to do the work, but also to have enjoyed a seat at the table (and that spot on the wall) to gain an understanding of how LLF impacts the region in such positive, consistent, conspicuous ways.
Of course, COVID threw plenty of curveballs at us throughout the summer: a completely new Chef’s Potluck format, masked and socially-distanced Local Socials, meetings through Zoom, and evolving mask policies at Local Works. But, in all honesty, this didn’t negatively impact my experience with LLF. In fact, it made me appreciate this organization even more in that I recognized how they could make these large adjustments with such grace and thoughtfulness for the community. This outfit does nothing short of wonderful work – from fostering a more inclusive business community through Good Enterprises to encouraging local spending through Eat Local Season and Buy Local Season to sweeping awareness and advocacy efforts. I’m in awe of – and love with – their mission of supporting and strengthening local businesses, keeping local dollars local, and fostering an inclusive and loving community here in the Lowcountry. I’ll take every facet of my summer internship with LLF back to Furman University – from improving my participation in discussion-based classes to aiming more clear-eyed at future career options. I genuinely hope to find my future self with an organization as incredible as LLF.