By: Dorothy Douglass—
Muncie, Indiana, gets a bad rap every now and then. And as a former member of that tribe who said, as a young college student, “I can’t wait to get out of this town after I finish college,” I feel like I should retract that 35-year old statement. Anyone can choose to look at the bad, or look at the good. Muncie has a lot to offer, if you look for it. Ball State University has a vibrant campus; our downtown is now a shining locale for both visitors and Munsonians alike to venture to for a nice dinner outside, a concert in the park, or a festival. We can shop local, eat local, and find culture throughout our community.
I set out to find a few Muncie “transplants” much younger than me, to get their “take” on Muncie. I spoke with four fine young Hoosiers recently, and got their spin on our city.
First up is Deborah Wright, who moved here in 1997. Deborah hails from Vincennes, Indiana, graduated from Indiana University and was working for an airline in Indianapolis when she met her spouse-to-be. Vince was also working for the airline but wanted to come home and work with his family farm, and though Deborah says she’d have followed him anywhere, she found she quickly fell in love with the people and the community here. Deborah is forging a successful HR career at Ontario Systems, where she’s been for several years.
“I first worked at the hospital and my first sign of being a part of this community was the people. My hospital co-workers and Cowan neighbors immediately welcomed me and embraced me as part of the community. It was like I was supposed to be here and I belonged. Muncie quickly became my new hometown.” Deborah shared that she is motivated by helping others. She sees the size and culture of Muncie as one where you can embrace opportunities to make a positive impact on others. She says Muncie has given her the opportunity to work on serious business during the day and go home to feed goats, watch a school event or mentor youth. Life in Muncie, for Deborah is “fulfilling and it is home.”
Caleb Churchill is Executive Chef at the Horizon Convention Center, and you can often find him personally overseeing a catered lunch event. Caleb grew up in Warsaw, Indiana, and came to Muncie to play football for Ball State University in 2001. Caleb’s first sign that he might be staying in our community was when he married his Cowan girl.
Caleb shared that he carried the same mentality that many do while attending BSU – he couldn’t wait to leave for a larger metro area.
“What I didn’t realize was that I didn’t like Muncie because I was not contributing to Muncie. Once I started to getting involved around town and getting to know more people that wanted to change downtown, I really started to be proud, and considered myself a true Munsonian.” He notes that Muncie has really evolved over the last 10 years. The Churchill family finds fun and interest at the Muncie Children’s Museum, Prairie Creek Reservoir, the Farmer’s Market at Minnetrista, to name just a few. Caleb’s wife teaches at her alma mater, Cowan Junior/Senior High School.
When asked to name a few of the things about Muncie he really enjoys, Caleb gave me a list that starts with PEOPLE. He was quick to add the river, the involvement of not-for-profit organizations, local business, and craft beer bars!
Mitch Isaacs is Executive Director for Shafer Leadership Academy, and also a transplanted Munsonian. Mitch grew up in Greens Fork, Indiana, and came to Ball State University in 1998. He deliberated between BSU and Wabash, and selected the university 45 minutes from home and the one that had girls!
Mitch noted that he felt more a part of the BSU community – until he bought his first family home in 2008. Some of Mitch’s Muncie favorites include the great selection of ethnic restaurants. He must be a regular at Aw Yeah! Comics since the owner knows his name, and he says that place has a great “vibe.”
“I feel connected here, like I have a place in a community of decent people. Muncie has plenty of opportunities to connect – as long as you’re willing to try.”
Mitch believes that everyone has to find their fit in a community. Muncie can be a great fit for anyone, but particularly for people who want to establish roots and feel like they are a part of something. Mitch cites affordable homes as another of Muncie’s unheralded features in our “quiet, connected, and caring community.”
Indianapolis Ben Davis and Ball State University graduate Jaime Faulkner now calls Muncie her home, though she grew up on the west side of Indy. Like Caleb, Jaime came to Muncie in 2001 to attend Ball State University. Jaime saw two major signs that has inspired her commitment to this community. The first was while she was a BSU student and involved on campus. She got to know many folks while visiting The Living Room, off of Jackson St. The Living Room hosted up-and-coming musicians and held concerts on the weekend. This was Jaime’s first indication of the value our community places on arts and entertainment.
Jaime’s second epiphany came shortly after beginning her job at MutualBank in 2005, just after BSU graduation. Jaime shared that she was encouraged to get involved in the community by her coworker. When she expressed uncertainty about how and where to start, her colleague suggested the Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce. Jaime took that advice, began networking, and has never looked back. She found early on that there are many people passionate about making Muncie better, and she knew she wanted to be a part of something bigger than herself. Jaime says the inspiration has never faded for her, even eleven years after graduation and into her career at MutualBank.
“I think everyone has a desire to be used, fulfill a purpose and have meaning. Muncie enables that. I love my work community where we truly help people live better lives. I love my church family where we get to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. I love my Y-peeps (YMCA) where wellness is fun.”
Downtown Muncie has become a hotspot of fun events, like Artswalk, and theater productions at Muncie Civic. Jaime indicated it’s hard to fit all Muncie has to offer in just a few sentences.
Similar to others profiled here, Jaime indicates her favorite thing about Muncie is the passion that people have to see Muncie succeed.
“Without much thought, I could rattle off five to ten names of people who will go to any length to help Muncie grow and flourish. It’s an inspiration to witness. Better yet, it’s a joy and extremely fulfilling to have that outlook on this community. For those who might consider staying in or moving to Muncie, I would say, ‘You are welcomed here.’ You are needed, wanted, and valued for the skills you bring to this community. Together, we can do great things!’”
All these younger people are enthused about Muncie, Indiana, and what our community has to offer. Sometimes we just need to take off the blinders and look around.
Dorothy Douglass, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is Vice President, Human Resources with MutualBank. MutualBank is a founding partner of the Muncie Journal project.