The mother of three adult children didn't always have it easy. She remembers lean times for sure. "I've always had at least two jobs," she said. Scanning her resume' it is hard pressed to find a job she hasn't done. In looking over everything she has done it is hard pressed to find something she hasn't tried. And in chatting with her it is hard pressed to find any thing she isn’t willing to give a try.
Jodi Baker Lewis is always ready to go. Always ready to help. Always ready for adventure.
That might be her motto.
To say she loves Franklin would be an understatement. She’ll make scones just to help a local business out. She'll dream up something a little more special to do during Applefest that showcases the town. She believes Franklin has what living a good life needs, but if, for some reason it doesn't, she is looking for ways to remedy that situation.
This isn't something new to her, nor is it something she does simply because she is the chamber director. This has been a lifelong dedication.
She ran for city council to serve this town, hell she was even once its mayor. She believes that through good team work small towns like Franklin can do more than survive, they can thrive.
See, just try to find a job she hasn't done.
When she thinks about this past year with a global pandemic wreaking havoc everywhere, she remembers times being tight raising her kids. “I knew how to make the most out of a bag of groceries,” she said. But also said she could never do it alone. Her kids helped, her friends helped, her parents help as she just kept plugging away. She tells a story of someone giving her groceries once that just made her cry and be so thankful.
This history and understanding could be what helped her during the difficult 2020 year where COVID-19 changed so many things.
Drawing from the strength she obtained receiving that simple bag of groceries years ago, she took on the shutdowns and pandemic head on with an extended hand to help. She kept the chamber open and has let it become a center where help radiates from. She has helped area businesses deliver last minute holiday shopping gifts and food when businesses had to remain closed and people socially distanced. She help hand out hand sanitizer and organize simple things like mini-parades to keep a sense of community alive.and out hand sanitizer.
The chamber office was often filled with items for donation or when someone needed a little temporary storage. Whatever was needed.
Baker Lewis doesn’t lament. Her past experiences inform and fuel her present. She does plan, any chamber worth their salt has to plan, but she lives the present as well as anyone can. Leading by example she uses her social media to spread thoughts of the day and often photographs of her adventures.
So a five minute errand usually turns into a half hour or more. But she comes back with connections she can make and stories to help her do her job.
Recently she had a meeting with the out-of-town owner of the historic The Franklin building. The owner bought the building because it interested him and it was historic, but didn't know what he wanted to do with it yet. After the meeting as she walked back to her office a light bulb went off. She had given temporary office space to a local teacher who was taking his Pennsylvania Rural Robotics Initiative the next level. He was looking for a home for his institute.
Within a couple hours the new owner of the building was onboard and excited about this project and the teacher was beyond excited. And this still looks like it is going work out a couple month later.
Baker Lewis and the chamber board is currently planning Applefest, one of northwest Pennsylvania's biggest festivals. It draws tens of thousands of people to the downtown. It could not be safely done last year and regrettably had to be cancelled. So what should’ve been the 39th annual this year is only the 38th. “They won’t let me say its the 39th” Baker Lewis joked about the committee not letting COVID make them miss out on anything.
What started simply as a pie baking contest, has grown into a three day festival that really a week long event if you take into account the set-up and and a year-long event in the planning. Yearly over three-hundred crafters, artisans and service organizations show their wares among the multiple stages for entertainment and seemingly endless food vendors. This is all coordinated through the chamber and its committee.
“People of this community have always had the ability to sit down at a table to discuss things and end up walking out of the room with whatever is best for the community,” she said. She says her role is to be a voice to showcase the community and what it has to offer though the chamber.
"I admit, I’m a bit partial when it comes to Franklin.”