The Lancaster Chamber strives to provide opportunity for local business and community leaders to share their insight and perspective on a variety of current topics.
This Words That Activate Change series is focused on uplifting voices in our community that encourage dialogue, cultivate transformation, offer thought-provoking ideas, and challenge all of us to be better, be stronger, and, most importantly, be advocates for systemic change within both our community and our workforce.
Our second article is by Deepa M. Balepur. Deepa is co-founding principal for Compass Real Estate, LLC., a commercial real estate brokerage firm providing best-in-class service, skilled negotiations and honest advice to sellers, landlords, buyers and tenants to navigate successfully through the complex commercial real estate process. Originally trained as a pharmacist with a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences form the University of Maryland, she understands the importance of client confidentiality and care. Her career in real estate began almost fifteen years ago originating from her personal real estate investment interests. Having quickly learned and understood the real estate market, she soon multiplied her number of satisfied clients many fold. She has been the recipient of several awards for sales production, business leadership and community contributions. She thanks her clients, vendors, partners and dedicated hard working team for realizing her vision of starting her own company. Deepa lives in Lancaster with her husband, Shyam. Their children, Naina and Nishant are pursuing degrees in the fields of science and engineering.
Celebrating Diversity & Fostering Community
By Deepa Balepur
“Will you be ok?”
My friends and family asked as I was getting ready to move to the United States in the early 1990s. I was in my early twenties and was excited about my future possibilities in the land of opportunities.
“Why Lancaster County?”
When my husband and I decided to move to Lancaster County in 2000, we often thought about this. Yes, it was a beautiful, affordable, and family-friendly place to call home, but would we fit in?
“Do you really think this will work? You know this is a relationship-based business. How will you develop the trust and confidence with people outside your own community?”
It was a valid concern and although I had no specific answers, I let my guiding principles take over: to work hard and be authentic.
In the business world, giving back to our community is becoming a way of doing good business and the impact it can have is extremely valuable. At Compass Real Estate, we strongly believe that in addition to being ethical businesspeople, we should be involved citizens. We are big proponents of giving back to our community and have done so in various ways such as financially supporting and guiding other local businesses and non-profit organizations. Being on various accomplished boards has helped us gain a more profound understanding of our society – its strengths and weaknesses. As individuals and as a business, we are passionate about organizing and participating in initiatives that unite us.
But is Lancaster County ready to embrace the differences its non-natives bring? The Indian Organization of Lancaster County (www.iolcpa.org) hosted our inaugural Indian Arts Gala (“Utsav” – meaning celebration) in 2014. Everyone was invited and everyone came. The event continues to be a huge success and is well attended by people from all backgrounds. It was heartening to see that there is genuine interest among our fellow Lancastrians to experience other cultures.
The One World Festival (http://oneworldfestivallancaster.org/) was born from a beautiful coincidence, when on September 22, 2018, three vastly different cultures were being celebrated in different locations around the county. One of the attendees brought this to my attention and I reached out to the other two organizers, and eventually other local ethnic groups. This event will allow us to share our common values and uniqueness on one day, and in one place. Originally scheduled to be held on August 2, 2020, the event will now be held in September 2021. We are really looking forward to coming together as One World!
I am privileged to have had such great experiences as an Indian American in Lancaster County. Though some groups are still not fully embraced in Lancaster and beyond, I hope that events like the One World Festival will promote respect and understanding for other cultures that will foster a more accepting community.
Businesses can play a key role in nurturing inclusivity by employing a diverse workforce, including in key leadership positions, recruiting advisory board members from different backgrounds who will provide varied and valuable perspectives, and supporting global experiences in various ways – by offering financial support, encouraging employees to attend and creating a workplace culture of open-mindedness to celebrate differences. Easier said than done but it won’t get done unless we each start doing. Every small step will go a long way.
We owe it to ourselves and the community we live in to educate ourselves about the diverse groups that are a part of our society. This will enable us to have respectful and productive conversations followed by constructive actions.
Catch up on other articles in the series:
-Article 1: Diversity Education & Workforce Development by Dr. Daniel Wubah
The Lancaster Chamber is currently creating a diversity task force and sourcing inclusivity & anti-racism training. We are committed to making changes within our own organization to better serve everyone in Lancaster County.