Rob Lalka of State Department Addresses United Way’s Catalysts

Catalysts Co-Chairs Jason Kiser, Josh Johnson, and Michael Copty.

Catalysts Co-Chairs Jason Kiser, Josh Johnson, and Michael Copty.

At just 28 years of age, Rob Lalka, Global Partnerships Liaison in the State Department (not to mention a distinguished Cave Spring, Yale and Duke grad) was an ideal speaker earlier this week for the United Way of Roanoke Valley’s Catalysts’ final gathering of 2010. The Catalysts, a group of young philanthropists (40 and under) who each give at least $250 per year to United Way, meet periodically throughout the year for fun, networking, good food, and interesting speakers – often from their own age group – who are doing amazing things in the community and the world.

Lalka, a local boy making a big splash in international relations and economic development, had them spellbound, as he talked about his experiences serving under the last three Secretaries of State.  Members of the Catalysts self-select when they make their pledges to the United Way campaign by simply checking the Catalysts box on their pledge forms or by alerting United Way staff that they qualify age-and donation level-wise. The size of the group has doubled each year since its beginning three years ago and United Way staff believe there are many more qualified members who would give to the campaign, but who may not have realized yet that the group exists.

President and CEO Frank Rogan joked that he felt like the grandfather of the group and noted that Lalka, should he return home to the Roanoke Valley to raise a family (something he mentioned as a strong possibility), would still have 12 years left to be part of the group he had just impressed with his presentation.   The luncheon was underwritten by Advance Auto Parts, which is a year-round sponsor of United Way special events and has many Catalysts members among its employees.