New director takes helm of The Lightning Jar

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BENNINGTON — Joelle Greenland describes finding her new job as "serendipitous."

She was mountain biking in Manchester this spring when she encountered a woman who told her that a Bennington nonprofit organization was looking for a new director.

Six months later, on Oct. 16, she assumed the role of chief entrepreneurial director at The Lightning Jar, a coworking and collaborative space downtown that opened in 2015.

The organization's goal, said board chairman Dimitri Garder, is to become the primary hub of entrepreneurial and creative economic activity in the region. The Lightning Jar currently has 83 members.

It had been without a director since the beginning of the year, and Greenland is now tackling both the big-picture tasks and small details. She is organizing meetings with its members, updating their office access cards, planning new programs and events, networking with community leaders, setting up internships with local college students.

Greenland said she wants to create a culture of innovation and economic empowerment at the organization, as well as support members on their entrepreneurial journey.

"It was kismet," she said in an interview during her second week at work. "I wasn't looking for a job. I was looking for a purpose."

Greenland, her husband and their 10-year-old daughter moved to Manchester last year from Arvada, Colorado, which is part of the Denver metropolitan area.

She had been working as the community development and long-range planning manager for a local county. The job was impactful, but Greenland said it didn't leave her much time for her family and civic activities. The vehicular traffic alone upset the work-life balance.

"Instead of just living an ordinary life, how do I live an extraordinary one?" she said of her underlying motivation.

Greenland, who was born in Brooklyn and grew up in New Jersey, had lived in the southern Vermont town of Ascutney a decade ago. She and her husband reminisced about that time in their lives, longing for the slower-paced, closer-knit small town life.

The couple visited Bennington County with their daughter in October 2018. Two months later, they were living here.

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After the move, Greenland's priority was to become an active member of the local community. She threw herself into a variety of activities, including working as a substitute teacher at Manchester Elementary Middle School, teaching skiers at Bromley Mountain and volunteering as a Girls on the Run coach at MEMS.

She joined Manchester's design advisory committee, where she serves as chairwoman. She also signed up with the Dorset Players theater group, where she acted in its "Gaslight" production last month.

Garder said Greenland is "uniquely qualified" to lead The Lightning Jar, bringing with her significant experience in economic development, strategic planning, team development and fundraising.

For the next year, he said, board members expect Greenland to focus on growing the organization's network of entrepreneurs and collaborators. She also will be building out its programs and events.

Greenland succeeds Michelle Marrocco, who left in December after funding for the position dried up. The director is The Lightning Jar's only full-time staff. The organization receives financial and in-kind assistance from various groups, such as VSECU, the Bennington County Industrial Corporation and the Bennington County Regional Commission.

Garder said The Lightning Jar has since secured funding from partners including the Vermont Community Foundation, VSECU, Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, Vermont Technology Council and Global-Z, where Garder serves as CEO. In addition are contributions to the The Lightning Jar and earned income.

"The future prospects are very bright," Garder said in an email Thursday.

While out running in April, Greenland injured herself. Since she had to take a break from running, she went mountain biking. And that's where she ran into Elisabeth Marx, of the Vermont Community Foundation, who told her about the director job opening at The Lightning Jar.

"I'm ecstatic that I got hurt running, so I went mountain biking," Greenland said. "Everything happens for a reason."

Contact Tiffany Tan at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan on Twitter or 802-447-7567 ext. 122.

Meet the director

The Lightning Jar is hosting a gathering Thursday at which both members and nonmembers can meet Greenland over light hors d'oeuvres. The event will take place 5 to 7 p.m. at The Lightning Jar office at 194 North St., Bennington.


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