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Passion from the Past Building the Future
26 Jun 2017

Passion from the Past Building the Future

Photo Credit Andi Roberts,

One of my favorite local stories over the last few months has been the story of Jocelyn Adelsperger being named executive director of The Betsey Mills Club. We’ve been talking about the power of storytelling in the Mid-Ohio Valley and this is a perfect case where a compelling story has led to the revitalization of a non-profit organization.

Jocelyn is a mother of two, born and raised in the Mid Ohio Valley and happy to be home raising her children here. She is a veteran property manager with more than 20 years experience in facility management, marketing, customer relations and building maintenance in larger markets all over Ohio. She is excited to use her skills to revive the history and tradition of the Betsey Mills Club as a positive, forward thinking force in the community.

The Betsey Mills Club was founded in 1911 under the name of the Girls Monday Club. The present day Betsey Mills Club is a tribute to the vision and determination of the woman whose name it celebrates, Betsey Gates Mills. Originally, the club was an extension of a sewing class started by Mrs. Mills and others. Meeting in a local church, the group offered instruction in “household science and art.” As the size and scope of the organization grew, Mrs. Mills tried to locate a permanent home for its activities. She wanted a center that provided “healthy activity and intellectual stimulation for Marietta’s young women.” In 1916, she and her husband donated the house at the corner of 4th and Putnam to become the permanent home of the club. This home, the birthplace of both Mrs. Mills and her nephew, former Vice President, Charles Gates Dawes (under Calvin Coolidge), is the still a part of the building which was dedicated to Mrs. Mills’ memory by her loving husband in 1927. This dedication took place 7 years after her death to be sure her legacy lived on in her beloved Marietta.

I’m pleased to share Jocelyn’s take on how she has been able to breathe life into an organization that some thought, perhaps, was fading away.

Q1: These days, storytelling is a huge push for the marketing world. It seems like many businesses and organizations in the Mid-Ohio Valley have a story to tell, and The Betsey is no exception. How are you using the story of the Betsey, and your story, to try to grow your membership?

I think of story-telling as more of a connection to our Appalachian roots. It is interesting to think of it in terms of a marketing tactic. The Mid-Ohio Valley has a rich history of traditions and preservation- minded people. This area was founded by a group of people who believe in caring for their neighbors at the community level. That community involvement is woven into these buildings, landmarks and rivers like the spirits of the people who first settled this area with each bit of history we uncover. The Betsey is no exception. The club has been in existence for more than 100 years and it is still pursuing the same goals spoken to life in 1911, “healthy activity and intellectual stimulation” for women. That is a compelling story to tell. I don’t really think of it as a marketing tactic but more a story that I am so proud to tell in my tiny home town.

We have a team of volunteers and employees, at the Betsey, that are proud to tell this story and passionate about continuing this precious mission. I think that is the key to our current growth. The community is starting to feel the excitement and the passion in our halls again and they are starting to add their own chapters to the Betsey story with memories and ideas of their own!

Q2: You use a lot of different methodologies for getting your story out to potential and existing members. What ways have been most successful so far?

Being a nonprofit, with a nonprofit marketing budget, we have had to get creative with our marketing methodologies. Lately, possibly because of the Summer weather, we are finding the best responses are generated by word of mouth, either in person with our “Betsey on Location” initiatives (i.e. Farmer’s Market and festival information booths). In addition to that, we have year round success with Facebook posts. We use Facebook to promote events, educate about our programming and tell the history of the Betsey. We work hard to keep our page active and informative. We also love to promote other community events and programs on our page as well. We feel promoting other community organizations is just as much a part of Betsey’s Mission as promoting our own.

Q3: Would it be as easy to grow The Betsey if there was not a compelling backstory to tell?

You’d still have activities to promote, so there would still be a source for content there. I feel like we would blend in with the other community centers in the area if we didn’t have Betsey’s story and mission to guide us. Our programs are great on their own, but our strength comes from the passion of the mission and history behind everything we do.

Q4: Would storytelling work as effectively do you think if The Betsey was in, say, Columbus or Cleveland versus Marietta?

Having worked in both Columbus and Cleveland, I know feel that storytelling is not nearly as effective in those markets. I feel like we have great success with it here because of the history in the area, the tourism economy and the Appalachian culture. I feel like people in larger markets are more transient and not connected to the stories and the community like we are here.

Storytelling is omnipresent in Marietta and the surrounding area, and many companies and organizations successfully use their hometown roots to grow into the future. Keep an eye on Jocelyn and the Betsey in the months and years to come.

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