Community Service is a Constant Sir Winston may have had Marilyn Sessions in mind when he said this. Her whole life has revolved around enhancing the lives of those around her. Successful in the business world, she is equally successful and well known for her contributions to the Kent community. The many people who benefit from her tireless generosity feel the impact of her contribution.
Marilyn and her pleasant demeanor are a constant in the Kent community. She is involved with numerous community service groups and activities. It is certainly evident in her visibility at most community activities. She is or has been involved with many groups and their activities, including Family and Community Services, Kiwanis (president), Lord’s Lunch, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Kent Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), Kent Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Kent, Portage County Head Start, Dog Days of Summer, United Way, and Coleman Professional Services, to name a few. Her contributions have been recognized with many awards including the Key to the City, Volunteer of the Year for both Main Street Kent and United Way, and the W.W. Reed Medal for Public Service.
Passion Meets Service
Marilyn merges her passion with the causes that interest her. She also inspires others to support these causes, especially her husband, Brian who is alongside her for most of her community service. Marilyn’s three major interests; cooking, animals (especially dogs,) and gardening, take up countless service hours.
Marilyn loves to barbeque. This has led to a number of food-related projects that raise money for various organizations. She and Brian started Grill for Good which is now in the 8th year and has raised thousands for numerous causes and charities. The idea originated from her participation in a barbeque grill-off in Atlanta about ten years ago. She and Brian finished second in a contest of about 400 grillers! The proceeds of that function went to support the needy in greater Atlanta. On the return trip to Kent, they formulated the idea and plans for Grill for Good.
Dr. Patrick O’Connor
It began modestly with just Marilyn, Brian, and a handful of their many friends. They were joined shortly after by the Kent Jaycees who lent their support to grow the event. This June, they expect the function to draw about 1,000 people to downtown Kent with a goal of donating approximately $10,000.00 to those in need of food, shelter, and mental health services. To learn more about Grill for Good, go to www.kentjaycees.com/grillforgood. Other food related activities she is passionate about support the Lord’s Lunch program, involving many local churches, Kent Police Department, Family and Community Services, and the Newman Center Catholic Student Association.
Anyone who has met Marilyn knows of her love for pets, especially Golden Retrievers. She is often seen with Buddy and/or Clyde who were once referred to as “celebrity dogs”. Buddy and Clyde also serve as mascots for the University Parish Newman Center Catholic Student Association. Some years ago in a contest, she won a free original portrait by artist Sean M. O’Connor. Rather than have her own portrait drawn, she had it done of her Golden Retriever, Lucy. It still hangs proudly in her living room. Her love of dogs is also reflected in the Dog Days of Summer festival held each August and St. Pet’s Day. Both events raise money for the Portage County Animal Protective League and Rose’s Rescue.
Marilyn has spent most of her professional career in human resources and administrative positions. She has mostly worked as an employee relations coordinator in the financial services industry. Much of her career emphasis is on assisting employees to enjoy quality work life.
By the time she entered college at Kent State University, she had 11 years of retail experience under her belt. She began her formal college education in criminal justice, however, she changed her major to business administration after completing an internship as a juvenile probation officer. The internship experience confirmed for her that she could make a bigger contribution in the business world.
Fresh out of college, she took a position at the Ravenna Arsenal, working on the Dragon Missile Team. She loved the work and the people. She also enjoyed feeding apples to the deer that roamed the Arsenal fields. She even named a few of the regulars. Her favorites were Jane Doe and Buck Rogers. After three years in this position, she decided to take on human resources work in the banking industry. Her first assignment would be a tough one.
As an employee relations consultant for Bank One, she coordinated the employee separation program for Banc One Credit Company offices that were closing in the late 1980s. Her job was to counsel employees who were being displaced by the many office closings across the country. She learned very interesting lessons about change from the experience. For example, some of the employees welcomed the change as it motivated them to do something else in life. Others however, were quite devastated. She did her best to make an unpleasant experience as pleasant as possible. After the last office closed and the final employee was dismissed, she realized she had worked herself out of a job. Her break would be a short one.
It was shortly thereafter she started at Hometown Bank in the main office in downtown Kent. In addition to her role as human resource director and training officer (15 years), she is heavily involved in the Hometown Bank Summer concert series. She is in a good place at Hometown, considering its 117-year history of service to Kent and the surrounding communities. Hometown donated the space for the plaza, which is the outdoor centerpiece of Kent. This initiative led to other outdoor venues following suit in Kent. These improvements have been an important component of the revitalization of Kent in recent years.
A Synergy of Service Synergy
is the interaction of elements when combined, produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements. For example, flocks of birds fly in formation as they use less energy when working together. One strand of rope has a certain amount of strength. However, three strands of rope weaved together (a braid or cord) have more strength than the strands would have individually. The essence of community is that a group can accomplish more working together than individuals can separately.
This synergy is evident in everything Marilyn Sessions does. She has demonstrated the importance of community service in many ways, over a long period. Her contributions have affected many people. She is an excellent role model for young people who want to see how they can support their communities. Marilyn’s life is really one of weaving three strands of passion and interest together. Her cord is really about raising: raising friends, raising funds and raising fun.
The next time you are at a community function in Kent, Marilyn and Brian will probably be there. Stop and say, “Hello”. You will see synergy in action! Say, “Hi”, to Buddy and Clyde, too. They will also be happy to see you.
“We make a living by what we get, but we
make a life by what we give.”
— WINSTON CHURCHILL
Most creative people have traveled very interesting paths to get to where they are…usually zig-zagging a lot, shifting artistic gears, retracing steps, exploring new passions, revisiting previous works, failing a whole bunch, and generally bouncing back often. All these experiences are part of their creative profile and serve to motivate and inspire them. This feature tells that story. This version of the Road Less Traveled features Marilyn Sessions, Human Resource and Training Officer at Hometown Bank.
A popular notion is some pets and their owners have similar characteristics. It looks like this may be the case for Marilyn and her Golden Retriever dogs. The breed’s friendly, gentle, intelligent temperament means it is suited to being a disability assistance dog. It is popular as a guide dog for the blind and a hearing dog
for the deaf. Also, according to the Golden Retriever Club of America, the Golden Retriever is a very versatile, cheerful dog that enjoys participating in many activities and events. Sounds familiar.
A third love of Marilyn’s is gardening. She is a Portage County Master Gardener, as well as a member of Kent Garden Club and is active in the Adopt-a-Spot program to add flower gardens to open spaces in downtown Kent. She and Brian have tended the flower garden in front of the Kent Stage for eight years.
A Flow of Love
“My community involvement is simply an act of love—almost like being on auto pilot—like a flow of love.”
Marilyn is humbled and honored to contribute to her community. And like most community oriented people, she prefers to give with little fanfare or attention. Living intentionally is to serve from the heart, rather than the head.
In recent years, the number of people performing community service and participating in service clubs in the United States has declined. As a result, many states and communities are requiring students to complete a minimum number of community service hours as a high school graduation requirement. The logic is we all need to be part of our communities if they are to thrive and grow. Marilyn believes everyone has a responsibility to see our communities grow. Young people in particular need to see the value of community service as they will receive as much as they give.
The Origin of it All—Growing up with Community Values
Marilyn grew up in Shalersville with rural values where community service is important. Some key people in her formative years were her parents, Chuck and Josie Eisele, her older brothers, Sam and Mark, and her Grandma Ellis (who served as Maid of Honor at her wedding). In particular, her mom had a powerful effect on her development. In addition to being her best friend, Marilyn credits her mom with instilling in her a spirit of service to others. Her mom is a constant reminder to her as she performs her community service.
Another important person in her formative years was her kindergarten teacher in Shalersville, Mrs. Carol MacLean. The popular phrase “I learned everything I need to know in life in kindergarten” applies here. In an odd random event, Marilyn was planting flower bulbs in her yard one day when Mrs. MacLean happened to drive by. Marilyn tracked her down and they have been sharing memories of that kindergarten class ever since.
Another major influence on Marilyn’s early development was the television show, The Flying Nun featuring actress, Sally Field. She actually had aspirations of becoming a nun because of the show. She liked that The Flying Nun played with animals and sang songs all the time.
On a bit more serious note, her father ensured that the family lived and learned a strong work ethic and great customer service skills. The vehicle for this was the family Save 4 Store in Shalersville where all family members worked. By age seven, Marilyn had mastered the fine art of sorting pop bottles. She was also running the cash register and assisting customers! Her “big brother” Sam Eisele (her rock) now runs the store. She learned many things in that store about the importance of commitment and service to others. In particular, she admires her brother Sam’s military commitment to Honor
Flight and the Ohio National Guard.