Article originally published in the Sunday, February 10, 2019 edition of the Ruston Daily Leader.
Local Q&A: Dylan Sanders seeks to serve
By Starla Gatson
For Dylan Sanders, collaboration and serving others are key. A native of Kilgore, Texas, Sanders began his philanthropic career at age 15 when he began working for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in his hometown. Now, 10 years later, Sanders serves as program director of The Exchange. The Exchange, a program of the Ross Lynn Foundation, is a coalition of nonprofit organizations that exists to enhance the work of nonprofits by providing necessary resources, including but not limited to board development, locating funding sources and social media marketing. Sanders’s work with The Exchange has not only given him the opportunity for connection and collaboration, but has also earned him the Ruston-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce’s Young Business Leader of the Year award. However, for Sanders, it is not about drawing the attention to himself; it’s about making a difference.
What brought you to Ruston?
I actually came to Ruston in 2011 to come to college. I started out working on my engineering degree and I got two and a half years into that and decided it’s not what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, so I switched to psychology. When I graduated, I just stayed. I just bought a house in Ruston back in October so I’m here for the long haul.
Do you have a personal philosophy you live or work by?
I think it is, “Do the most good for as many people as you can” because I think that we do not exist for ourselves. We exist for others, and I think that God has definitely ordained this; I know that I believe the work we’re doing here is being put in place by the God of all creation.
What has been the best piece of business advice you've been given?
Don’t wait until everything is perfect to get started. You just got to start. You got to get out there and do it, and it’s OK to fail, it’s OK to make mistakes as long as you are learning from those mistakes and as long as you are not letting those failures define who you are as a leader and who you are as a business professional.
What, in your opinion, is the most rewarding part of working in and with the Lincoln Parish community?
One of the things I really love about this area is there’s such a sense of “everyone is for each other” in this area. Ruston hasn’t always been this way; there’s a renewed sense of energy in this town and this parish, and it is unreal to me how much people are fighting for one another.
How do you hope to see The Exchange grow in the future, and what are a few long-term goals you have for it?
I hope that what people will see is that because of The Exchange, we’ve been able to make the lives of these nonprofits even better, so I hope that people will be able to see that and want to be a part of our work, whether it be through being a community venture partner, whether it’s through membership as a 501(c)3 or whether it is somebody who says, “Well, I don’t have any services to offer, but I’ll write this big fat check and help you fund what you’re doing.” I hope that everybody will see the work and recognize that it is good, it is beautiful, and it is making a difference, and they’ll want to be a part of it in some way. A long-term goal of mine would be to start a fund in which we’re able to help to fund some of these programs and projects that are happening in the city of Ruston and in Lincoln parish.
What does it mean to you to have been awarded the Chamber's Young Business Leader of the Year Award?
That is such an incredible recognition to me because of the work that we’re doing here; it solidified in my mind that the work that we’re doing here is important. I have to say that, again, it’s never been about my accomplishments, it’s never been about the things that I’ve been able to do, but I have to say that award comes to me on the backs of people for years and years that have been doing work in this community. That award would not have been possible without the work of NCLAC and without the work of the Boys and Girls Club and Trinity and all of these organizations that are doing amazing and beautiful work. And what I’ve done is I’ve brought them to the table, and I have introduced them to each other. And that’s such an important work, but without them, my work is nothing.