Meet Hannah Martin: Empowering community through passionate advocacy

Influence is fickle and often fleeting. Those with influence may ensure its endurance by utilizing it to positively change the community around them. For some, influence is a birthright. For others, it is entrusted democratically. And for others, it is simply a result of persistence and determination. This is a difficult pathway to gain influence and effect change on one’s community, yet it is the most publicly accessible pathway; its genesis is passion, and its currency is time. Hannah Martin knows this well. 

Martin first came to Mt. Pleasant in 2013 as a student at Central Michigan University. Growing up in Australia before moving to Mt. Pleasant by way of Lansing, Martin is acutely aware of what makes a community unique. 

So, when Martin decided to stay in the area after graduating from CMU, it was not a decision made lightly, but it was the result of an advanced understanding and love for the community and all that makes it special.

Martin cites the people in the community as the biggest influence over her decision to stay in Mt. Pleasant. 

“With the people [at my job] at Home Depot, it was an interesting dynamic,” she shares. “You get away from the college aspect of [Mt Pleasant] and you meet people who live and work in this community who have established families here, and they share so many things that you could do.” 

In this exploratory phase of her Mt. Pleasant residency, Martin developed a desire to share the area’s qualities with others. 

“Now, I feel like I want to be an advocate for people [to realize] Mt. Pleasant is a great place to live and work,” Martin says. “I want to share that with not only with people in the community, but also with students, to get them to stay here.”

After almost a decade of working at Home Depot, Martin was hired as the communication and events coordinator at the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce. In this position, it became Martin’s prerogative to create spaces and opportunities for the community to come together.

“We have to work together to foster connections, build relationships, and show that collaboration is the key to creating a vibrant community,” she explains. “When people feel a sense of belonging and investment in the area they live in, the return is a diverse, economically thriving, and engaged community.” 

“We as a community need to do a better job of telling our story,” she adds. “I think we have a great younger generation here that is building the foundation to share that story.” 

Martin also works to directly address some of the key issues facing the area. She says workforce development, housing, and childcare are a few of the main challenges the region must handle. 

“Working through the Chamber has afforded me a lot of opportunities to get my hands on making some positive changes. We have done initiatives with Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works and MMI to work on workforce development issues,” shares Martin. “I am also on the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity in Isabella County, and we just finished our 40th home remodel.”

In a move that will bring Martin full circle back to her early years in Mt. Pleasant, she has recently accepted a job as the assistant director of alumni engagement at CMU. In her new role, Martin hopes to connect with alumni to assist them in pursuing their careers in the Mt. Pleasant area, just as she did herself, a decade ago.

Students at the university may view their time in Mt. Pleasant as a transient visit, but Martin believes the area has much to offer them, if they should choose to stay. 

“I hope with this new position, I can help facilitate students realizing the area’s potential,” she explains. “Sometimes there is a disconnect between CMU and the community, and I think we have to be able to bridge that gap somehow to show those students they can stay in Mt. Pleasant and make their careers here. We just have to be able to share that idea.”

Of course, convincing people to stay in the area is only half of the battle. First, a community must be robust enough to support new members; there must be space for them to grow and thrive.

Martin has played a large role in creating this space within the community.

Martin is involved with several committees and boards, playing a significant role with Habitat for Humanity, the Mt. Pleasant Jaycees, the Craft Beer Festival committee, the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, and the Young Professionals Network.

“When I started at the Chamber, I thought, ‘I’d love to join a board,’” says Martin. “Now I’m on five.”

After more than a decade of forging her path and building her sphere of influence, Martin is now able to use her own experiences to ease the transition period for newcomers, as well as improve the quality of life for current residents.

Martin believes there are ways for all community members to do the same. 

“There’s something for everybody. Whatever your passion is, there’s probably a committee, board, or organization that is working to make something better and improve the quality of life in our area that you can be a part of too,” she describes of the Mt. Pleasant community.

“Step outside your comfort zone,” Martin encourages. “Attend a meeting, introduce yourself to someone new, and you'll be amazed at how many doors can open for you.”
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Read more articles by Owen Howard.

Owen Howard is an Isabella County native with a deep appreciation for all it has to offer, in both people and places. He is a current graduate student at Central Michigan University, with a bachelor's degree in biology. He was a collegiate cross country athlete for CMU and currently assists the team as a volunteer coach. In his free time, Owen could be described as 'chronically outdoors.' Owen has a passion for telling stories and for listening to other people tell theirs. He loves getting the chance to allow people to share their passions and stories with a larger audience.