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On a brilliantly sunny afternoon at Liberty Park, Suzi sat feet from the future Northend Greenway. Once the Co-op was on its feet — final funds were raised within three months of her being on board, in one of her proudest moments in recent memory — she responded to a job description that slid across her desk a year prior: Development and Outreach Coordinator at the Northend Greenway. “Someone said, this is written for you,” she recalled. In November 2012, she joined the greenway and bittersweetly left the co-op. In explaining the greenway’s mission — to carve safe, efficient pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure in Harrisonburg’s North end, connecting with downtown, JMU and Eastern Mennonite University — her passion charged ahead of her. “I do think it’s a space that’s going to create understanding ... the face of Harrisonburg has changed, become more diverse,” she said. “We’re speaking a ton of different languages, but are you actually talking with people who speak different languages?” She leaned in on her elbows. “Most people are still within their little bubbles...” Sitting back and taking a breath, she put both hands down flat on the table and laughed. “OK, I’m off my soapbox!” Her energy is infectious — spread with coffee dates, group meetups and support rallying. “I just think it’s a cool project,” she said. “Cool” may be an understatement. Fiance Michael Weaver says he has tremendous respect for her leadership in this project, as in all past undertakings. “People follow other people, and they follow a worthy cause, and I think it’s very difficult to have just one or the other,” he said. “So, what Suzi’s given, she’s connected herself to worthy causes ... and as an effective leader, has helped them to become a reality.” Jenkins agrees. “She’s a tireless worker, especially when a project is in line with her values.” Tireless, it seems, even with the more tiresome parts of the job. Listening to critics of any project she’s worked on has been a serious part of her experiences. “I love a good squeaky wheel,” she said with a guilty grin. “It keeps you honest, it keeps you authentic ... and if one person is squeaking, there are probably a lot more out there who feel the same way.” Neal says she’s always had the ability to see the best in everyone. “I think that’s what makes her so good at what she does.” She prepared a press release, she said, for when the greenway reached its next grant approval goal. But, someone else had to send it: Suzi is moving on from the greenway, into a role as Director of Operations and Outreach for the Food Co-op Initiative. The organization tapped her shoulder, and she stepped up to the new challenge in early
[Suzi has] connected
herself to worthy causes ... and as an effective
leader, has helped them to become a reality.