“My Marquette chapter began with the kindness of the community and it will end as a love story. It taught me that you need to work to live, not live to work. I was living a fast life and letting so much pass me by until one day I realized it was okay to slow down, to fall in love, and to begin a life in a small town that had everything to offer.”
In true Thanksgiving spirit, we’re highlighting Marquette community member, Theresa Hamari, who uses food to bring people together every day as well as fuels her soul through the love and support of others. Curious to learn more? Keep reading below.
Theresa originally grew up in Ypsilanti, MI but jumped around to other cities while growing up. She attended two high schools and earned two college degrees. One of her degrees is from our very own Northern Michigan University (Go Cats!) Ultimately, crossing the Mackinac Bridge to the Upper Peninsula was one of the best decisions she ever made. Theresa has embraced the Yooper heritage and has become what we fondly call a Yooper Transplant.
When asked about her chosen career, she stated, “I always wanted to be a person in the Skittles corporate office that chose the colors to match the flavors. Now, I am the Manager of Employment Operations and Training for NMU Dining Services. I feel I am finally in a profession that makes me most happy. I had always wanted to work for my alma mater, work with students, and creative coworkers. I have it all now.” Theresa has had a plethora of different experiences, but none quite match her experience in the Upper Peninsula.
Tell Us More About Your Path to Get There?
My path to get to my chosen profession has been a long and winding path. Right after graduation, my husband and I began an event called Port A Jams. It was an all-day music event with local artists displaying their artwork where all the money raised at the door went to a local charity. We moved the event every month to a new bar. We raised thousands of dollars. Community members from all walks of life would stop by to show their support.
I have worked as the promotional director of Downtown Marquette, a two-year AmeriCorps VISTA specializing in youth violence prevention and conflict resolution, as well as a Program Director of a mediation center, and in the corporate world as an Operation Managers, Staff Assistant. I have been fortunate enough to be a part of a community that supports you as you travel the road to success. As my corporation began to move towards closure, an acquaintance in the community reached out about a position at Northern Michigan University. They thought I was a perfect fit when they read the job description and knew that it ticked off all my dream career boxes.
Brittany: Wow! You have an extensive background. All of your experiences seem to have really prepared you for your current position. I may be a bit biased, and love calling the U.P. home, but I’m curious if you always knew in the back of your mind that you’d end up back here in Marquette?
Why Did you Choose Marquette as Your Home?
This is emotional for me to answer. I feel like I owe everything to the Marquette community. My original plan was two years and then out. I would complete my Bachelor’s degree and head to the big city! But after one year I knew I wasn’t leaving. Marquette stole my heart, the community became my family.
From day one, people in the community were so kind and didn’t expect you to give something back. People here are open, caring, and real. An example: my first day arriving I found out I didn’t have a place to live and Marquette was in a housing shortage situation. An NMU staff member found out about my situation during my orientation, and within moments they were on the phone and connecting me with a housing opportunity. When I said, “how can I ever repay you?” they said, “just pay it forward and respect the community.” I immediately began volunteering for community organizations, organizing fundraising events, and serving on boards.
“Marquette stole my heart, the community became my family.”
How Are You Able to Maintain a Successful Career Up Here?
Networking is huge in Marquette. It’s the old friend of a friend who has a job opening or can assist you with a program. Again, it is a community that takes pride in its members being successful. You also realize here that – sure, money makes the world go around – but life is way more than money. It’s about living your life, filling it with adventure, and finding friendships that are family. It’s about being comfortable, appreciative of everything around you and most importantly being allowed to be you, to be heard, and to be supported.
My husband and I own a small business, Marquette Wallpaper and Paint, with his brother & sister-in-law. The community has always shown us support, especially during the past few months when all businesses were struggling. They checked in on us, they shopped locally and they shared our story.
Brittany: Networking up here is huge. Having connections and being personable goes a long way. I think every Yooper could agree with that. Reaching out to others is the hardest part, but Yoopers are always willing to help! They work to create a fun and lively atmosphere for all.
What Makes the U.P. Such an Optimal Place to Live?
It has so much to offer from art to adventures. You can get up, go to work, go for a hike after dinner and attend community concerts all in one day. It is a mecca of diverse people with deep connections to the community. It is such an active town to live in. There is support for all the members to succeed and the pride of a community that is supportive and open to any and all.
Brittany: The U.P. is truly something special. I love that the community is active all year long, no matter what season it is.
What Are Your Hobbies and Do They Change Seasonally?
I have a hobby for every season. You need to embrace the seasons of the U.P. Each season presents a new opportunity for you to find the positive. I truly believe that if you are negative it will blind you to the beauty that is right before your eyes. When I first moved here I was in need of a good adventure. A group of women asked me to go snowshoeing with them and they are now some of my closest friends. They have become like sisters to me. I also stand-up paddleboard, hike, climb, backcountry camp, sleep in yurts, cook, watch the sunrise or sunset, and shoot photography. I always love a great adventure.
Brittany: There really is a new hobby for each season that needs to be embraced. By being optimistic and getting outside, you don’t blind yourself from the beauty that surrounds you even in the dead of winter! Embracing the abrupt seasonal change is part of the Marquette culture. Speaking of that, how would you describe the culture of Marquette?
It is very cultural. We have so many music festivals, plays, concerts, art galleries, and restaurants that are unique on their own. The unique venues such as plays that take place in breweries, a music festival in the woods, small businesses filling their walls with a new local artist every month, or a theatre inside an old boathouse. Marquette supports the artists, small businesses, dreamers, and doers.
What Else Can You Tell Me About Your Story?
My story is a story that was co-written by Marquette. I am forever grateful to the Marquette Community and my husband who has also been able to live out his dream here in Marquette as a business owner and a musician.
No matter who you are or where you’re from, the Upper Peninsula will welcome you with open arms. Follow your dreams, and come see what it’s like to embrace the Work-Life Balance in the 906… your adventure awaits.
Thank you, Theresa, for sharing your intriguing story about becoming a U.P. resident! Theresa proves that you don’t need to be a born and raised Yooper to fall in love with the U.P. Her love for this place is undeniable and we are so glad that Theresa was able to find a positive work-life balance right here in the 906.
If you are interested in reading about our past participants of the Work-Life Balance in the 906 series, click here. And if uplifting Yooper stories are your thing, check out this inspiring story of Yoopers coming together.