Seymour Toastmasters Club becomes official: Group reaches 20 members and charters


When Chad Malone decided he wanted to start a Toastmasters Club in Seymour, he thought it would take at least a year to get enough people to sign up.

In order to become a chartered club with Toastmasters International, he needed to find a minimum of 20 people in the community with an interest in public speaking, leadership and professional networking.

During the first few initial meetings at the Jackson County Public Library in Seymour in April, only a handful of people came. But those people were just as interested and committed as Malone in getting the club going.

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As word spread, new people started to come each week. It wasn’t long before there were more than 20 people willing to become paid members of the first official Seymour Toastmasters Club.

On Tuesday afternoon, the club met at Harmony Park in Seymour for a party to recognize and celebrate its accomplishment of becoming an official charter member of Toastmasters International.

It only took four months, less than half the time Malone anticipated.

What Malone loves about the group is its diversity and willingness of people to step outside their comfort zone in order to grow in their confidence and leadership skills, he said.

Many of the Seymour Toastmasters work at local industrial employers, such as Cummins and Valeo, and are from countries all over the world, including Nigeria, Uganda, Mexico, China and India.

During weekly club meetings, members give prepared speeches and also work on impromptu speaking.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said member Vaidhyanathan “Vaidhi” Sabesan. “You get to learn a lot about time management. That’s been my biggest takeaway, leadership and most importantly public speaking.”

Although he still gets nervous before giving a speech, Sabesan said he is getting better and more confident in his speaking abilities because of Toastmasters.

Club officer Shilpa Nagaraj said she decided to get involved with Toastmasters to help her career.

“Last year in October, I was trying to present to 300 people, and I got so scared I almost passed out,” she said.

She decided right then and there she needed to do something about her fear of public speaking.

“Knowing your weakness and addressing that is the first step,” she said. “With these kind of public speaking skills, who knows where you can go? The sky is the limit.”

She congratulated all of those who had joined and said it was a huge milestone for the club to get its charter.

Member Prabhakar “PK” Kumar said now, the club is finding it difficult to have enough time for everyone to speak at its meetings.

“We’ve grown so much,” he said. “That’s a huge achievement, I think.”

During Tuesday’s party, the club recognized two of its Toastmaster mentors, Tom Daugherty and Mark Walton, who are members of the Pioneer 17 Toastmasters Club in Greenwood.

“We all wanted to say thank you for all of the support and guidance you have shown us for the last four months,” Kumar said. “We look forward to being the best Toastmasters Club under your wing.”

Club officer Song Li echoed Kumar’s appreciation.

“I really think thank you is the most truthful and heartfelt words I want to say on behalf of our Seymour Toastmasters Club,” she said. “You have shown us how to be a good leader.”

Li compared the Seymour club to a newborn baby.

“Four months can make a newborn baby to sprout a first tooth and double its body weight,” she said. “So our club is like this newborn baby. We’ve more than doubled our size. We’ve grown to more than 20 people now.”

The club also honored officer Huixiao “Anna” Kang for her enthusiasm and dedication to Toastmasters.

Malone said Kang helped build his dream of having the club in Seymour. Although a Toastmasters group had tried to form here in the past, it wasn’t able to get enough members to become an official club.

“I really thrive on helping people grow, personally and professionally,” Malone said. “There was nothing in the Seymour area that was doing that, and so with my passion, I had to figure out a way to make that happen.”

When he met Kang, the pieces started to fall into place.

“Because of her hard work and her efforts every single day, working with me and all of us, we are able to have a party to be able to recognize the Seymour Toastmasters Club as having their very first, official group ever,” he said.

For Kang, Toastmasters is more than a club. It’s a family, she said.

Kang first joined the organization in China. When she moved to the United States, she remained involved by joining local clubs, but when she came to Seymour, she was disappointed to find there was no local Toastmasters for her to join.

Helping to get the club started here was an amazing opportunity, she said.

“I think it feels good to have Toastmasters here,” she said. “I’m meeting new people and new friends and building up the family.”

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Charter members of the Seymour Toastmasters Club

Huixiao “Anna” Kang, Song Li, Shilpa Nagaraj, Chad Malone, Acce Jason Rodney, Lawrence Bukenya, Tannu Nakul, Lisa Davis, MD Ragib H. Arefin, Tom Daugherty, John McDaniel, Vaidhyanathan Sabesan, Arun Venkataraman, Matt Nicholson, Prabhakar Kumar, Alberto Martinez, Mark Walton, Kristi Branaman, Nanmdi Agbo, Adedapo Omoniyi and Doiphude Aniruddha

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What: Seymour Toastmasters Club meetings

When: Noon to 1 p.m. Mondays

Where: Meeting room at the Jackson County Public Library, 303 W. Second St., Seymour

Who should attend: Anyone who wants to improve their public speaking and leadership skills



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