- Tabatha Wharton
Our Daytonian of the Week comes by way of nomination. Linda Roepken is the Executive Director of Life Essentials, an organization that strives to help the less fortunate of our community. Per their website:
The goal of Life Essentials is to be the community leader in providing professional, person-centered services to enhance the well-being of vulnerable adults. We care for our community’s forgotten, those living with mental illness, those who are alone, and those who have no voice. Life Essentials provides unique and specialized programs that enrich lives by educating and inspiring clients to be in charge of their mental and physical health. Our dedicated staff provide advocacy services that enable seniors and people living with mental illness to have a greater quality of life. We are Helping People and Transforming Lives through integrity, excellence and community.
Linda was highlighted for her work specifically on Life Essentials’ project Chalk About It, an awareness and fundraising event that aims to foster awareness around the issues that the elderly and people with mental illness face every day. Now in it’s third year at The Greene, area artists from all walks of life create stunning chalk masterpieces for all to enjoy, all culminating into a block party in the evening hours.
We grabbed a quick word with Linda while she preps for this year’s event -- meet your Daytonian of the Week, Dayton!
Name: My legal name is Linda Crouch-Roepken, but I am mostly known as Linda Roepken.
Job/Job Title: Executive Director, Life Essentials
What’s your favorite spot in Dayton? There are so many. I love wandering the Oregon District, going to the DAI, shopping at any area mall or outlet, but most of all, my favorite spot is my home. I can be a total homebody, and that is where I am the most happy and relaxed.
What’s your guilty pleasure? I love a dirty vodka martini, neat, with stuffed blue cheese olives. I’m a huge fan of Orange is the New Black and can’t wait until the next season is released.
What’s one word you think people would use to describe you? I’d guess “determined”. My dad once described me as a bulldog! Please don’t ever tell me I can’t do something; just watch me! I struggled as a kid in school and there was a teacher who told my mother I would never go to college. Well I may work harder than a few others, but I’ll get the job done.
Why did you decide to settle in Dayton? I never left. After high school, I went to Sinclair then straight to work. I’m so lucky, virtually my entire family lives in the area. Why leave? Dayton has access to great amenities like theater, music, art, and recreation. Oh, and you can’t beat the cost of living.
How did you get involved with non-profit work? I guess you’d say it’s a calling. I knew from a very young age I wanted to “help” people. I received an Associate’s from Sinclair in Mental Health Technology, then went to work in community mental health as a case manager. Eventually after receiving my Bachelor’s I moved towards volunteer management and nonprofit administration. That’s my true passion. There is so much work to be done and volunteers can make a huge difference to a not-for-profit organization, whether they are serving in a leadership capacity or helping provide a direct service. We (local nonprofit organizations) all need volunteers. I encourage people to look at what they can do to make a difference. You don’t have to have a specific skill, just a willingness to get involved.
What was the most challenging part of that? Volunteer recruitment and fund raising. At Life Essentials, we are looking for individuals to volunteer as guardians for adults with mental incapacities. Now that sounds like a really big responsibility. And to some degree it is, but it is very rewarding, can be done on any schedule, and the volunteer will have lots of staff support. Some people are natural fund raisers, but I’m a strong introvert, so I have push myself.
How did you push through the challenge? I psych myself up. I take a couple of deep breaths, smile and to borrow from Nike, “Just Do It”. Once I get out there I’m ok, but it’s that desire to hesitate. I’ve learned I can’t hesitate.
What inspires you about Dayton? Dayton’s rich history inspires me. So many wonderful inventions, from airplanes, to the database, and so many others, how can one not be inspired by our great history of innovation and philanthropy. Dayton is steeped in philanthropy. In fact, I think Dayton is one of the most charitable communities in the US.
If you could change or bring one thing to Dayton, what would it be? More businesses. I think the chambers and the DDC do a pretty good job marketing the region, but we can always use more businesses. As a kid the region seemed to be known as the Crossroads of America, but I don’t hear that much anymore. We’re so conveniently located, within an hour or two from larger cities, within a day’s drive to 2/3 of most of the US population. I’d also like to see those businesses be committed to the community. When a company is engaged in the community, their employees are too. When there’s engagement, the entire community benefits.
What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years? I am hopeful Dayton will continue to grow and our leaders will continue to invest in amenities, infrastructure and business development. There are so many good things going on right now, it can only keep getting better.