"I want to be able to feel like I'm contributing and giving back to the community," she said.
Instead, she found herself in the banking business for 5 1/2 years, but the desire to serve never lessened, and when a community development job opened up with the
"You could tell during the interview she's a take-charge kind of lady," he said. "She's always looking for new things to do, things that can be done to fill a gap."
One of those new ideas was a leadership class for area eighth-graders designed to prepare them for careers after high school.
It's one of four different leadership training programs she coordinates and supervises, which are aimed at everyone from middle-schoolers to business executives.
Wilbanks said her job may seem like a far cry from the community activism she originally envisioned for herself, but the end product is similar.
"The goal of the classes is for them to do a community project," she said, emphasizing her focus on "servant leadership."
She said she is a "facilitator" and not a teacher, and that the leadership students learn the most from the hands-on projects they do and conceive with themselves.
"For the leadership classes to see at the end of their project what they were able to do is inspiring and encourages them to do it again," she said.
She said her impact on the community is less direct and visible than traditional non-profit work, but that doesn't mean a difference isn't made.
"A lot of these folks get plugged into local non-profits, volunteer groups or churches," she said. "One of our recent leadership graduates is running for a school board position. It's neat to see people get involved in something that's of interest to them."
The classes also give practical skills to budding leaders, she said, such as the seminars aimed at 20- to 40-year-old workers, which she discontinued after she was hired by the chamber, then revamped and restarted in 2010.
"The sessions now are longer and more useful," she said. "We do a personality profiles session so they get to know themselves better; one on how to manage your social media image; finances, budgeting, savings and 401(k); a non-profits session ... things that are important to young professionals."
She said the classes are as rewarding for her as she hopes they are for the students.
"The biggest benefit for me is getting to meet all these people and to learn from them," she said. "It's a blessing to me, for sure."
And it scratches the itch she still has to make her community better.
"You definitely feel like you're helping others," she said, "maybe by showing them the community in a way they hadn't seen it before or giving them information they would never have gotten otherwise. And then watching them learn, go and lead a group is wonderful."
Place of birth:
Family: Husband, Michael; two children
Job: Director of
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