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Eve Jacobson made her way around Dusters Restaurant on an early March evening preparing a slideshow for an event hours after working on Columbus Area Future Fund initiatives. And before the night was over, she would go home and plan her wedding.

For Jacobson, it was another day. She’s used to being busy.

This last year has undoubtedly been hectic for Jacobson, the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce’s marketing director and coordinator of the Columbus Area Future Fund. She graduated from college, moved to a new town, got a new job and planned her wedding all within 12 months.

“I didn’t know at the time that my initial time here would be so crazy,” Jacobson said, with a laugh. “But it’s really important work and I am really excited to be part of it. I love helping businesses and the community as a whole.”

Jacobson, in a way, was destined for Columbus though never thought living here was in the cards. But a chance summer 2017 internship with the local chamber paved the way to an opportunity that changed her life.

“It’s the perfect size,” Jacobson said of the city. “I really don’t want to go any bigger. Here, it’s where you have opportunity. It’s a progressive community – that’s what I love about Columbus.”

FINDING HER WAY

A native of the small village of Beemer, a community a little over an hour northeast of Columbus in Cuming County that has a population of approximately 678 people according to the 2010 census, Jacobson grew up alongside her older brother and sister.

Like her older siblings before her, she attended Wisner-Pilger High School. Early on in life, she got introduced to music and interested in playing. In fourth grade, she decided to follow in the footsteps of her older sister and start playing the flute. It quickly became a passion.

“I ended up having a knack for the flute,” she said. “You can either really play it or you can’t. When I started playing really young, I had a knack for it. So I didn’t go on to anything else, I just stuck with it.”

She played all through childhood, participating in concert band in high school. When it came time to think about her future, though, Jacobson said she knew she wasn’t going to pursue music as a profession.

“I mainly did it because I enjoyed it. I didn’t want to be a teacher of music or anything. I just wanted to play and that’s all I really knew,” Jacobson said.

Admittedly, Jacobson said she was a kid who really wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life at the time. But, her high school music teacher encouraged her to at least consider minoring in music.

Enter Wayne State College. Jacobson said the college’s close proximity to her hometown and its well-known music program intrigued her enough to go there. She pursued that minor in music, but during her first semester, her mother inspired her to major in communications.

“I was just that kid who couldn’t pinpoint what I liked to do,” she recalled. “I ended up choosing communications and it ended up being the best decision. It really fits me more than I would have known.”

Special internship

In the spring of 2017, the chamber’s drive for five workforce coordinator, Kara Asmus, went to Wayne State College for a job fair to promote various opportunities in Columbus. Jacobson had a friend who had done an internship with the Columbus chamber the year before who also recommended Asmus talk with Jacobson. So when the time came, Jacobson approached Asmus.

“She walked right up to me and said, ‘hey I’m looking for an internship …,” recalled Asmus, who attends job fairs throughout the Midwest and promotes internships and job opportunities in Columbus in an effort to recruit people to the area. “She was bubbly and excited about coming to work in Columbus and the marketing job she could potentially be doing. So immediately I found her engaging to be around.”

Jacobson was already quite familiar with Columbus, as her boyfriend, Christian, and grandfather lived in town. She visited Columbus often, so interning in a town she liked and utilizing her skills seemed to make sense.

Jacobson was ultimately brought on as an intern that summer and wasted no time getting busy. She said it was an exciting time to be involved with the chamber because its now popular “Something Good” branding campaign had launched and had really taken off.

“It was a fun summer but I had no idea I would be here now,” Jacobson said.

RIGHT TIME, RIGHT FIT

Early on during her senior year of college Jacobson said she saw the marketing director position open up at the Columbus Chamber. She was interested in the job but knew the timing wasn’t right because she was still in school. Furthermore, she wasn’t yet willing to rule out other potential exciting opportunities that could come down the pipeline.

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“I just wanted to find a really solid job. I wasn’t just going to move here because my now husband was here and my grandpa was here,” Jacobson said.

But upon graduation, Jacobson noticed the job in Columbus was still open. For whatever reason or another, it had not been filled, and she said she thought that was a sign. As a result, she became seriously interested in the job that called for 30 hours as the chamber’s marketing director and 10 as coordinator for the Columbus Area Future Fund.

Back in 2006, a group of area residents launched the CAFF in conjunction with the Nebraska Community Foundation, a nonprofit that aids communities statewide in living “the good life” by providing training and resources to a network of affiliated funds. CAFF members operate under the mission to leave the community an even better place than when they found it.

Since its inception, CAFF has had a hand in a number of projects benefiting the people and places in the Columbus region by providing grants to numerous local initiatives and organizations.

The Fund has also collaborated with the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce and United Way to help increase affordable, high-quality child care options for families, and provided aid toward training for business owners through Centro Hispano’s Micro Business Development Program.

Her enjoyable experience in Columbus the previous summer and other visits were why she ultimately decided to pursue the position.

“That was a big deal. It made the process a lot easier,” she said. “They didn’t have to get to know me because the staff at the Chamber already knew who I was and knew my character. I was so happy when I got it.”

CAFF Chairman Rick Chochon said Jacobson has done a great job in her roles, noting she is an asset to the local area.

“It seems like though she hasn’t been here that long, Eve is very committed to Columbus’ success,” Chochon said. “Community betterment is definitely a passion of Eve’s. She has dived right into the coordinator position at the Foundation and is really taking hold. Her comfort level and confidence have really increased in the last year. She continues to grow her knowledge of Columbus to see where the Foundation can assist.”

LOOKING BACK, MOVING FORWARD

Jacobson’s first year in Columbus has been quite the experience. Besides planning her wedding and marrying her now husband this spring, she’s been heavily involved with initiatives of the CAFF and chamber.

“It has been great but it has also been a challenge - a good challenge. I’ve really been learning a lot and meeting a lot of new people,” Jacobson said. “It stretched me and it has grown me as a person for sure, but it has been super enjoyable. My roles being in the chamber and the future fund are really fulfilling. It can be hard sometimes, but at the end of the day, I know what I do really matters.”

More recently, Jacobson was responsible for leading the promotion and organizational efforts for the annual Columbus Big Give. The week-long effort is a campaign to raise awareness and funds for various nonprofits and specific projects they have going on.

Jacobson said she thought March’s historic flooding might lower what could be raised due to all the generous donations already being made to help flood victims, but that the Columbus Big Give still netted about $62,000 in donations and stayed on course with totals from past years.

More importantly, for her, it was a learning experience.

“What I was reminded of by someone I worked a lot with was that (the money raised) is not the most important part of that event. It’s about raising awareness for the nonprofits and the projects they’re working on,” she said. “I definitely was humbled throughout the process. I can see the big picture now in terms of volunteers and how it should all work.”

Jacobson, who celebrated one year in her current position on May 14, said she wants to continue to engage the community by getting more involved with local groups and projects both professionally and personally.

A softball player throughout her youth, she said she and her husband enjoy playing catch together. They also make visits to Omaha to spend time with her sister, brother-in-law and young niece and nephew. Being an aunt is an extremely rewarding experience, she noted.

As for her job, it’s rewarding, to say the least. Jacobson said she enjoys meeting new people and watching the community grow.

“It’s nice that my job makes me meet people because then it makes things so much easier and I see people I know and I meet more people through those people. It’s a ripple effect,” she said. “It’s amazing how forward-thinking in general people are here. They’re always thinking about what needs to be done not just now but years into the future. And seeing how passionate they are and how they continue to want to make this community better so people want to come, that really stands out to me.

“They want to continue to up the quality of life because we all love our community so much … So I want to get myself more out there.”

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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