Michelle Koehn didn’t know exactly what to expect when she took over as executive director of The Community Table a little more than two years ago. Each day presented challenges and surprises, and Koehn said the past 24 months have resembled a blur.
“It feels like we’ve been running a marathon at a sprint pace,” Koehn said.
A new runner will replace Koehn in a few weeks, as she is stepping down from the position at the end of the month to take a local job in the private sector. Koehn is involved in the hiring process to find her replacement, and TCT board member Melissa Maxwell said the board hopes to hire someone before Koehn departs.
Before taking over the position in 2017, Koehn volunteered with her family at TCT, which has served one meal per day since its inception in 1993.
Maxwell said key characteristics for an executive director include adaptability, flexibility and creative problem-solving or ideas.
Koehn mentioned the importance of work ethic and sense of humor, noting that an ethos of hers is, “Work hard, laugh often.”
“The weirdest stuff can happen; I never really know what’s going to appear on our front door,” Koehn said.
An example of that occurred last December, when about 4,700 pounds of food were unexpectedly dropped off at TCT. The organization did not have enough room for storage, so Koehn called many local entities to take the food over the course of a few days.
An average workday doesn’t exist for Koehn, who said surprises are an excellent, if sometimes difficult, aspect of the job. Maxwell said Koehn is incredibly energetic and never stops working. She called Koehn a motivating leader who has an infectious personality and excels at interacting with people from all backgrounds.
A recent day included Koehn stopping by a nursing home to visit with a volunteer, attending several meetings, working out an issue with law enforcement and speaking at UW-Eau Claire.
Koehn said one of the best parts of the job involves seeing multiple generations of the same family volunteering and listening to people’s stories with empathy and pragmatism.
Challenging aspects include making more people aware of the organization and decrease the stigmatization surrounding it.
One of the final events spearheaded by Koehn will take place Thursday when TCT hosts its first Dessert Extravaganza beginning at 5 p.m. at its building on 320 Putnam St. It will include various treats and a prize raffle.
The event also serves as somewhat of a farewell for Koehn and TCT Volunteer Coordinator Marie (Schug) Ehlers, who will also leave at the end of November and will be replaced by Hannah Guralski.