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D2 |Thursday, December 24, 2020 Community Champion Keepsake The Columbus Telegram FINDING HER CALLING: Gable thrives on helping others, raising her family MATT LINDBERG The Columbus Telegram Editor’s note: This story first published July 18. E rica Gable grew up in Papillion happily and was always busy. Her only problem was that as she grew older, it became apparent she wasn’t quite sure where life was going to take her. “Everyone around me was passionate about something and really knew what they wanted to do with their lives, especially once I got to college,” Gable recalled, noting she changed majors three times. “I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life in college. That was really a struggle for me.” Although Gable was arguably destined to be where she is today and happy about it, in some ways, it’s something she never imagined. She loved the big city lifestyle Omaha provided throughout her childhood and as an early adult; however, she’s found her calling in the smaller and more rural Columbus, where she helps area youth, is involved in various community efforts and a proud mom of three. “I truly feel everything you look at in life comes down to how you choose to look at it,” Gable said. “People always complain there’s nothing to do here, but I think any town is what you make of it. I love being able to really make a difference and raise money for causes … it’s a really great community.” FINDING HER WAY Gable was born and raised in the Omaha area, where she said she had “a very happy childhood” and normal upbringing living with her parents and younger sister. She played some sports throughout her youth, though acknowledged she’s “incredibly uncoordinated.” Sports weren’t her thing, but Gable still found plenty of ways to stay busy. She took several art classes to explore her creativity and eventually dived into theater. In high school, she also served as an editor of her school’s newspaper and yearbook. “I really loved yearbook, I loved doing that. I thought I wanted to go into journalism,” Gable said, adding that she was also inspired by the family’s neighbor who was a good friend and a broadcast anchor for an Omaha TV station at the time. But soon after arriving at Nebraska Wesleyan University in the early 2000s, she had a change of heart when it came to determining her career path. Actually, she had several changes of heart. She went from communications to English education and then business education, graduating in 2008 with a degree business administration and education. Gable, who had volunteered with Big Brothers-Big Sisters and other youth-oriented programs while in college, decided to get into student-teaching upon graduation. But, it didn’t go as planned. “I determined I didn’t want to teach,” she said. She shifted careers by getting into banking, which she did for nearly 10 years. During that time she excelled in the field and was promoted to branch manager with SAC Federal Credit Union (now Cobalt) at one of its locations inside a Hy-Vee in Omaha. She was thriving in the role that she ended up having for about five years (2008-2013). Courtesy Photo Erica Gable enjoys her role as an education specialist with Nebraska JAG and living in Columbus. it came to her career. “I knew I was missing my purpose. I always knew I needed to be doing something that was making a difference, especially making a difference in the community,” she said. “I just felt like I wasn’t doing enough.” FINDING HER PATH In December 2018, Gable accepted a role as an education specialist with what is now JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) Nebraska, an independent statewide nonprofit that essentially mentors students who are considered at the highest risk of disengaging from school or dropping out of school without the skills and motivation needed to succeed in higher education and the workforce. It is affiliated with the United Way of the Midlands. Gable is responsible for ensuring that students transition into the workplace and achieve expected outcomes, including graduation and post-secondary education. She also provides them with employability and life survival skills through classroom instruction of 37 core competencies, guidance, counseling, academic remediation, work-based learning experiences, and follow up post-graduation, among other things. “It was a total leap of faith, but I knew I needed to make a change,” Gable said. “I love working with my students, I love watching them unsure of themselves and seeing their confidence build, making leadership CHANGE OF PLANS One day in 2008, Gable got a random Facebook message from an old high school classmate, Jake. The two were not that close while in school, but went to a hockey game on their first date once he moved back to town and made a connection. Things worked out well as the Gables married in 2012. “He’s probably one of the most hardworking people I’ve met in my entire life. He puts 110 percent into everything he does,” she said. Her husband was working for Commonwealth Electric Company of the Midwest and moved up the ladder, eventually landing an opportunity in early 2013 to be vice president and based out of Columbus. She was a few months pregnant with their first child, daughter Charley, at that time. “I really liked Omaha, but it was a good opportunity,” she said. “It’s funny now because if you had asked me a year or two after we moved here, I probably would have jumped at the chance to move back. But not anymore. Columbus is a great place to raise a family.” She worked at Associated Staffing in town as its branch manager/human resources partner for nearly three years and then at Pacific Premier Bank, but said she knew she wasn’t quite fulfilled when decisions … I love watching them push to be better versions of themselves.” Also part of her role, Gable teaches three classes at Columbus High School to help guide students. She stressed the program has a stigma of being for students who are considered “problematic,” but that it isn’t true. Barriers to graduation, she said, can range from academic struggles to socioeconomic issues and those who simply just aren’t sure of what they want to do next. “Obviously, I can relate to that. I feel like I could have used this program when I was high school,” Gable said. “All students are looking for additional direction. This is maybe for kids who would otherwise fall through the cracks.” LIFE FULFILLED Besides a rewarding career, Gable takes pride in giving back to the community in various ways. She’s been involved in the TeamMates Mentoring Program, is a 2015 graduate of the Leadership Columbus program and a founding board member of Next Generation Kiwanis, among other things. “Erica is an amazing person. She is always going above and beyond to help and take care of others. Her passion for her family and her community is inspiring. Her compassion is also something that I admire …,” said longtime friend and Columbus resident Cassie Jeffryes. “She’s someone everyone would be lucky to know, and if you’re extremely fortunate, you can call her a friend … Passionate is a great way to describe her too; she wants to see others succeed. She will be your biggest cheerleader and is also willing to help you solve the problem and be part of the solution.” The Gables now have three children: 6-year-old Charley, 3-year-old son, Killian; and 8-month-old daughter Freya. She acknowledged it was a little chaotic being at home with three kids and working full-time the last several months during the COVID-19 pandemic, but she’s happy to have found her calling. “I love my life,” she said. “My job is so rewarding and I enjoy going to work. I also love that this position allows me to spend more time with my kids in the summer, and I feel it makes me a better mom.” The big city-loving girl still has an affinity for Omaha, but Columbus has undoubtedly become home. “There are great parks, I love that it’s safe and that there are extremely nice people,” Gable said of Columbus. “It’s a good community, and I love how fast it’s growing … It’s a great place to live.” Courtesy Photo Erica Gable, her husband, Jake; and their three children. Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt. firstname.lastname@example.org.