Post Author: Jules Ohman
The other day, I was given the privilege to sit in a room full of some of Galesburg’s most devoted citizens and eat some turkey. I’ve spent my KnoxCorps assignment working for the Chamber of Commerce, the voice of the Galesburg business community, and meeting more of this town than I had ever encountered during my three years at Knox. When I graduated in June, I was not expecting to say goodbye to Galesburg, but I wasn’t expecting to hear it had new things to say, new ideas to give me. This town often goes unappreciated by Knox students, despite the best efforts of professors to train new devoted followers of the Midwestern small town, both poetic and civic. But KnoxCorps is a new branch in the long history between the town and the college, and it’s already growing fast.
At the Thanksgiving Luncheon, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, it was jarringly clear to me how far KnoxCorps has come in only a few months. I recognized more faces than I would have thought possible in August, local businessmen and women, but also political and civic leaders in the community and the state. I had interviewed several of them for the new Chamber blog that I recently started, and I had met many of them as they wandered in and out of the doors of the Chamber. Others were members of the Lions Club that some other KnoxCorps Fellows and I were given the privilege of speaking at a few weeks ago. More still I shared an office with at the Galesburg Commerce Center, and had gotten to know while working there daily. I was astonished at how quickly my circle of Galesburg had widened.
In Portland, Oregon, my home city, I’m not used to this familiarity. I don’t bump into congressmen or art directors in the grocery store, and it’s rare to see more than a few recognizable faces walking down the street. Galesburg is different. Everyone seems to be here all at once. Our community has an intimacy that larger cities lack. KnoxCorps is part of that intimacy, and works well within the fabric of the community. For example, I work in the same office as Josh Hosmer Quint, a KnoxCorps member working for the Downtown Council, and we’ve traded social media and blog strategies to help boost our respective organizations. Last week, I directed groups to talk to Ruth Amerman, placed at the Galesburg Public Schools, about her proposed Writing Buddies program. Every time I hear of the new projects in KnoxCorps, Elizabeth Cockrell’s incredible press efforts or Max Potthoff joining a city planning committee, I spread the word to whoever will listen.
My own projects at the Chamber have been building. I’ve started a blog highlighting local businesses and their stories. I spent some well-used time revamping the Chamber’s Facebook page, a skill that my generation in particular seems to be adept at, whether our homework suffers from it or not. I’ve learned how to create the newsletters and press releases that keep Chamber members and the community up to date on events and seminars around town. I’m in the process of creating a new website for the Chamber, and have been working on projects to bring younger entrepreneurs to Galesburg. Bigger things are coming too, with those long winter months ahead of us still.
Some days, I feel like the best part of my job is just listening. I’ve spent three years at Knox listening to students, how they interact within and with the town, their fears and desires. Now, I turn my ear to the town, and I hear about what needs to be fixed, what works, and how people who have always lived here, and likely always will, relate to their home and all its working parts. I find that I’m one of those working parts. I find that I’m more securely a piece of this town than I ever was, than maybe I’ve ever been anywhere. At the Luncheon, although it was a few days before the real Thanksgiving, I gave thanks for this community, for my place in it, and for the direction it’s headed.
Jules Ohman is the Kleine Equipment, Inc. Fellow and works at the Chamber of Commerce. She graduated in June of 2012 with a BA in Creative Writing.